Home / National Industrial Relations / Countries / Bulgaria / Health and Safety

Health and Safety Representation

 

Employee representation on health and safety issues is primarily provided through the employees elected as members of the joint employee/management health and safety bodies, known as working conditions committees and groups, which should be set up in Bulgarian companies. As well as working through the joint bodies, employee representatives themselves have specific rights and can call in the national inspectorate if they feel the employer is not ensuring safety at work.

 

Basic approach at workplace level

 

The employer is responsible for healthy and safe working conditions, but joint bodies, made up of management and employee representatives meet once every three months to discuss health and safety issues. In addition, employers should provide an occupational health service whose prime responsibility is the prevention of accidents at work and occupational diseases.

 

Employee health and safety bodies

 

The interests of employees in the area of health and safety are represented through elected employee representatives in the joint working conditions committees, which should be set up in companies or establishments with more than 50 employees. In smaller companies, a single elected individual represents the employees in the so-called working conditions groups, which should be set up.

 

In addition, employers consult with employees or their representatives or unions to enable them to discuss a range of health and safety issues. Trade unions should also be invited to take part in investigations into accidents at work and occupational diseases.

 

Numbers and structure

 

The 1997 law on health and safety at work requires that the working conditions committee should consists of equal numbers of employer and employee representatives. However, it does not lay down detailed rules on its size, simply stating that it should have no more than 10 members. (The threshold for setting up the committee is 50 employees.)

 

Where the company has occupational health experts or a works doctor, they should also be on the working conditions committee, as part of the employers’ delegation. The employer chairs the committee and the vice-chair is a representative of the employees. In large and complex companies, it is possible to set up working conditions committees both at the level of the whole company and for particular parts of it.

 

The working conditions groups, which should be set up in companies with up to 50 employees, and in departments of larger companies, have only two members. They are the employer or the department manager and an elected employee representative.

 

Tasks and rights

 

The tasks of both working conditions committees and groups are the same. They include:

  • discussing every three months all issues related to employees’ health and safety and taking measures to improve the position;
  • examining the results of occupational risk assessments, studies on the health of employees, reports from specialist occupational health services and other health and safety topics;
  • discussing planned changes in technology, work organisation and job content and propose solutions that protect the health and safety of employees;
  • monitoring the extent to which health and safety measures are implemented;
  • monitoring accidents at work and levels of occupational disease in the company or enterprise; and
  • participating in the development of health and safety information and training programmes.

Working conditions committees and groups should work closely with the employer’s occupational health services.

 

In addition, employee representatives on working conditions committees and groups have a number of specific rights. They have access to information on working conditions, reports on accidents at work and occupational sickness, as well as the results of any investigations undertaken by the national inspectorate and any obligations they may have imposed on the employer. They should also be invited – along with the unions – to take part in the investigation of accidents at work and occupational diseases. Employee members of the committees and groups can require the employer to take appropriate measures to eliminate and mitigate hazards and make proposals to the employer as to how this might be done. They can also appeal to the national inspectorate if they consider that the measures taken by the employer are insufficient to ensure health and safety. Finally they have a right to participate in visits made by the national inspectorate.

 

More generally employers are obliged to consult with employees, their representatives or unions to allow them to participate in:

  • the “discussion and adoption” of all measures related to employees’ health and safety;
  • the designation of employees engaged in measures relating to health and safety, first aid, fire fighting and the evacuation of employees; and
  • the planning and organisation of health and safety training for employees.

Frequency of meetings

 

Both working conditions committees and working conditions groups should meet once every three months.

 

Election and term of office

 

Employee representatives in working conditions committees are elected at a general meeting of all employees, which takes place at the request of the employer, the union or 10% of all employees. At least half of the employees must be present for its decisions to be valid.

 

The term of office for employee representatives in working conditions committees is four years.

 

The employee representative in working conditions groups is also elected by a general meeting of all employees. However, in this case the general meeting also fixes the term of office.

 

Resources and time off

 

The employer should provide employee representatives in working conditions committees and groups with the resources and conditions they need to carry out their duties.

 

Employers are also required to provide and pay for training of employee representatives on working conditions committees and groups. This training must take place during working hours and the representatives must be paid. There is a closely specified national curriculum for this training, which in the first year must last for at least 30 hours and in subsequent years at least six hours annually.

 

Protection against dismissal

 

Employee representatives in working conditions committees and groups should not be disadvantaged as a result of their health and safety work.

 

Key legislation

 

Law on health and safety at work 1997

 

ЗАКОН ЗА ЗДРАВОСЛОВНИ И БЕЗОПАСНИ УСЛОВИЯ НА ТРУД 1997

L. Fulton (2013) Health and Safety Representation in Europe. Labour Research Department and ETUI (online publication prepared for worker-participation.eu)