Purpose – This paper seeks to examine the relationships between working conditions, innovation activities and industrial relations in two local production systems located in the northern Italy, exploiting data collected through ad-hoc surveys in 2004 and 2006. Design/methodology/approach – The paper follows a recent stream of literature, which is still quite scanty, that addresses the issue of the implication for workers derived from the introduction of organizational changes. This topic is addressed and extended, taking into consideration both the role of firm level industrial relations and the role of other innovation activities that may influence working conditions. Findings – The results seem to support the position maintained by the advocates of organizational changes. Job empowerment is spurred by the form of organizational changes usually defined as high performance workplace practices. However, such typology of changes in the organization does not seem to be linked with positive trends in safety/security and stress. At the same time the positive role of cooperative industrial relations on the working condition emerges, also as complementary elements to innovation activities. Originality/value – This work confirms some relevant empirical results obtained in international literature about the linkages between organizational changes and working conditions. At the same time it provides an original perspective of analysis taking into account other influencing factors of workers' well being: good quality industrial relations at firm level and innovation activities such as technological innovation and ICT.