Bridging the gap between policy instruments and practice
In spite of progress in intervention research, our understanding of the transformation of knowledge from the research into national working environment programmes is limited. Research in state regulation is mainly aimed at compliance and efficiency of public administration, while little attention is paid to why and how public and private organisations subsequently are to improve their working environment. This paper suggests a model which can bridge this gap. It is based on a combination of theories about basic policy instruments (regulation, incentives and information) with realistic analysis focusing on mechanisms and context, and finally institutional theory proposing coercive, normative and mimetic mechanisms as explanations for organisational behaviour. The model is applied to an intervention aimed at reduction of the risk of musculoskeletal disorders among bricklayers in Denmark. Our analysis of the case shows how various actors, including the authorities, employers, unions and bi-partite committees, developed a programme combining the policy instruments over a considerable period of time and that all three institutional mechanisms affected the outcome. This integration of various actors and instruments, which was not necessarily planned from the beginning, proved to be an effective way of facilitating the implementation of new preventive measures in bricklaying. The analysis also indicates new intermediary mechanisms, such as programme development, as an iterative process, and the importance of joint messages from employers and unions. The model thus provides new insights into the relationship between policy instruments and workplace health and safety outcomes.