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Health and Safety Representation

Health and safety representation in Croatia is provided primarily through safety representatives, elected by the whole workforce. In slightly larger organisations, there is also a joint safety committee.


Basic approach at workplace level



The employer is responsible for the organisation and implementation of health and safety measures in all areas of work. Collective agreements can be part of the basis of regulation for health and safety, alongside legislation and regulations.


Employee health and safety bodies


Employee representatives for safety at work (povjerenici radnika za zaštitu na radu) are the main way in which employees’ health and safety interests are represented. In most medium-sized and larger organisations (more than 50 employees) a joint safety committee (odbor za zaštitu na radu) must be set up and where there are more than 250 employees with workplaces in several separate locations a central safety committee (središnji odbor za zaštitu na radu ) must also be established. Trade unions can also appoint safety representatives if this is provided for in the collective agreement.(In practice there are few collective agreements which cover health and safety.[1])


Numbers and structure


In most cases, the number of employee safety representatives to be appointed is as follows:


Number of employees

Number of employee safety representatives

20 to 75


76 to 250


251 to 500


501 to 750


751 to 1,000



There are then an additional two safety representatives for every further 1,000 employees. (As the legislation makes clear, this is exactly the same as the number of works council members who should be elected in similar sized workplaces.)


In addition, where there are particular risks to health and safety, an employee safety representative must be appointed, even if there are fewer than 20 employees. The number of any trade union representatives to be appointed depends on the collective agreement.


If there are several employee safety representatives, they should appoint one of their number as a coordinator.


In most cases where an employer has more than 50 employees a safety committee must be set up. (This is not the case where the minister has agreed that a risk assessment has shown that there are no significant health and safety risks.) The safety committee consists of the employer, or the employer’s agent, the health and safety specialist employed by the organisation, the occupational physician –where there is one, and either the employee safety representatives or the coordinator of the employee safety representatives. The safety committee is chaired by the employer, or the employer’s agent. The labour inspector must also be told when the meetings of the committee are happening and has a right to attend, if he or she considers it appropriate.


There are no specific rules for the central safety committee, which must be established in organisations with more than 250 employees operating over several locations.


Research by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in 2014 found that 55% of workplaces in Croatia had health and safety representatives and 15% had a health and safety committee. These are both below the EU-28 averages, which are 58% for health and safety representatives and 21% for health and safety committees. (The figures are for workplaces with five or more employees.) [2] 

Tasks and rights


There is a general obligation on the employer to ensure that there are procedures in place, which allow workers and their representatives to be consulted on all matters related to health and safety so that they can influence decisions relating to health and safety issues and play a part in making these decisions.


The main task of the employee safety representative is to act in the interests of the employees in the area of health and safety and monitor the implementation of the regulations and other health and safety measures covering the workplace they represent. Where there are trade union safety representatives, they have the same tasks and rights as other employee safety representatives.


Employee safety representatives have the right to:

  • submit proposals relating to health and safety decisions;
  • require the employer to take appropriate measures to reduce and eliminate sources of danger;
  • complain to the appropriate authorities where they consider that the employer’s measures have been inadequate;
  • participate in plans to improve working conditions, in the introduction of new technologies and materials, and in encouraging the employer to implement health and safety regulations; 
  • be informed about changes that affect workers’ health and safety;
  • to be informed in writing about the state of occupational health and safety and plans for the future every six months or every three months, where there is a works council or a union representative with the powers of a works council;
  • access and use the documentation relating to health and safety;
  • receive workers’ health and safety complaints;
  • inform the labour inspectorate of their observations, attend inspections and respond to the inspection findings; and
  • call in the labour inspectorate where there is a threat to the life or health of employees and the employer has failed to do so.


Employee safety representatives should also:

  • train and extend their health and safety knowledge; encourage other employees to work safely through their own conduct;
  • inform workers on the health and safety measures the employer has taken; and
  • inform the works council at least every three months of their own activities.


In their work they should have access to all the documents and regulations they need.


Where there is a safety committee, this is the body in which employee representatives are involved in influencing and making decisions relating to health and safety.


The safety committee also plans and supervises the implementation of health and safety rules and deals with information and training relating to health and safety. The safety commitee plans and implements policies to prevent accidents and occupational disease and to encourage continuous improvement in health and safety.


Employee safety representatives and the works council are required to promote the safety committee’s work.


Frequency and terms of meetings


The safety committee should meet at least every three months and within 48 hours of any death or injury. If the employer fails to call a meeting within 48 hours of a death or injury, the employee safety representatives have the right to do so. The same applies if the employer twice fails to call a normal meeting within three months of the last meeting.


Election and term of office


In most cases employee safety representatives are elected using the same rules at those that apply to works council elections. This means that they are chosen by the employees in a ballot, which is supervised by an electoral committee of at least three members, appointed by the bodies – unions or groups of employers – who have nominated candidates. Candidates may be nominated, either by unions who have members at the workplace, or by a group of employees representing at least 10% of the workforce. All employees may stand for office; there is no service requirement. Elections are not valid unless at least one third of the employees have voted.


In exceptional cases, where employee safety representatives are present in organisations with 20 or fewer employees, the safety representatives are elected at a meeting of all employees.


The term of office is four years.


Resources, time off and training


Employee safety representatives should be given the resources they need to undertake their tasks. They are entitled to three paid hours a week to carry out their duties, although can be improved through a collective agreement.


Training of employee health and safety representatives is one of the specified health and safety tasks which are the responsibility of the employer. The training should take place during working hours and at the employer’s expense.   


Protection against dismissal


During their period of office the employer must not dismiss, transfer or place the employee safety representatives at a disadvantage in some other way, unless this has been authorised by the works council.


Other elements of workplace health and safety


Employers must undertake the tasks necessary to safeguard the health and safety of their employees. In organisations with fewer than 50 employees this can be done by the employer, provided that he or she meets the appropriate requirements, but in organisations with 50 or more employees, health and safety tasks must, in most cases, be undertaken by an employee who is a health and safety specialist (potentially by more than one in organisations with 250 or more employees). Only if there are objective reasons why these health and safety tasks cannot be undertaken within the organisation is it permissible for them to be undertaken by external health and safety specialists.


Where health surveillance is necessary, this is provided through external occupational medical services.


National context


The Ministry of Labour and the Pension System (Ministarstvo rada i mirovinskoga sustava) is responsible for workplace health and safety, and the Labour Inspectorate (Inspektorat rada) is responsible for monitoring compliance with health and safety laws.


Unions and employers are able to influence policy on health and safety through their participation in the National Council for Work Safety (Nacionalno vijeće za zaštitu na radu), which has seven members, including two each from the unions and the employers.[3]


The new health and safety legislation, introduced in 2014, placed increased emphasis on psychosocial risks. It stated that the employer should implement measures to prevent stress and in particular should consider: work organisation, including workload and the degree of workers’ autonomy; working conditions, including exposure to violence; communication on future changes; and subjective feelings relating to social pressures and the level of support.

Key legislation


Occupational Health and Safety Act, 2014


Zakon o Zaštiti na Radu, 2014




[1] See National safety and health profile in the Republic of Croatia, by Fran Marovic, 2010, ILO

[2] Second European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2016

[3] For more information on the national context see  OSH system at national level – Croatia by Réka Zayzon and Klaus Kuhl,  , OSH Wiki https://oshwiki.eu/wiki/OSH_system_at_National_Level_-_Croatia

L. Fulton (2018) Health and safety representation in Europe. Labour Research Department and ETUI (online publication). Produced with the assistance of the Workers' Interest Group of the Advisory Committee for Safety and Health at Work (of the EU Commission). Online publication available at http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations.