BACKGROUND: Occupational health services (OHS) are often described as an important resource to reduce work-related diseases and improve the workplace.
OBJECTIVE: This paper identifies key factors for successful collaboration between Swedish OHS providers and their client companies.
METHODS: Interviews were carried out with representatives of 15 companies and their OHS providers. The interviews were transcribed and their content analyzed.
RESULTS: The results revealed that successful collaboration was highly correlated with six factors. First, the collaboration depends on both parties; ``it takes two to tango''. Second, the company and the OHS provider have a joint commitment to a long-term collaboration. Third, the collaboration is built on frequent contact at different organizational levels. Fourth, the company has a well-structured work environment for occupational health and safety management. Fifth, the OHS provider uses a consultative approach in its prevention and promotion activities. Finally, OHS providers seek to treat the company, not the individual.
CONCLUSIONS: Our research indicates that a successful collaboration requires both occupational health and safety management (OHSM) within the company and the assistance of a competent OHS provider. A change toward more promotion and prevention services benefits the company, since the occupational health services are better tailored to the company's needs.