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Health and Safety Representation

Employee representation on health and safety issues is provided either through the workplace trade union organisation or elected safety representatives. There are no set rules on the numbers that should carry out these duties and the union right to require work to be stopped if there appeared to be an imminent threat to workers’ lives or safety was removed in 2008.

Basic approach at workplace level

 

The employer is responsible for health and safety at work, although employee representatives, either the local union or elected safety representatives should be informed and consulted, where they are present.

 

Employee health and safety bodies

 

Employee representation in the area of health and safety comes either through the workplace trade union organisation or an elected safety representative (zástupce pro oblast bezpečnosti a ochrany zdraví při práci).

 

For a period, separate safety representatives could only be elected if there was no union in the workplace, and their period of office ended once a workplace union started to operate. However, in 2008 the constitutional court ruled against this arrangement. Since then both elected safety representatives and the local trade union organisation can represent employees in issues relating to health and safety, although unions still have some rights which elected safety representatives do not possess. There is, however, no obligation on the employer to establish safety employee representation, as at least a third of all employees must call for this before it is set up (see section on elections). As a result, most health and safety representation is through union structures.

 

Numbers and structure

 

Where the local union body deals with health and safety, the rules governing numbers and structure are a matter for the union. A local trade union body can be set up with just three employees.

 

Where safety representatives are elected, the number depends on the total number of employees and the nature of the risks. The legislation states that the number to be elected should be decided by the company after consultation with the election committee (see section on elections). However, once there are 10 employees at least one safety representative should be elected.

 

There is no legal obligation to establish a health and safety committee. However, these exist in some workplaces

 

Research by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in 2014 found that 58% of workplaces in the Czech Republic had health and safety representatives. This is exactly the same as the EU-28 average, which is also 58%. The proportion of workplaces in the Czech Republic with health and safety committees, at just 8% is well below the EU-28 average of 21%.  (The figures are for workplaces with five or more employees.)[1] 

 

Tasks and rights

 

Employees have a right to be involved in health and safety issues through their union organisation or through elected safety representatives by means of both information and consultation.

 

The employer should consult with the union, elected safety representatives or employees themselves on:

  • substantial issues relating to health and safety;
  • risk assessment and the implementation of measures to reduce risks, as well as the job classification in relation to risk;
  • the organisation of training; and
  • the designation of a qualified individual responsible for risk prevention.

 

In addition, the employer should provide information to the union, the elected safety representatives or the employees themselves on: the appointment of employees organising first aid, alerting emergency services and employee evacuation; and the selection and provision of occupational health care.

 

The union, the safety representatives or the employees themselves should work with the employer so that the employer can provide safe working conditions and comply with health and safety regulations and the instructions given by the national inspectorate. They should be involved in internal annual health and safety checks.

 

As well as training, the employer should also provide the union or the safety representatives with documents relating to: risk assessment and the measures taken to eliminate or reduce risk; records of industrial injuries and occupational diseases; and the results of inspections carried out by the national inspectorate. The union or the safety representatives also have the right to comment to the national inspectorate when they inspect the workplace.

 

Trade unions also have a number of rights that are not available to elected safety representatives. In particular they are able to conduct negotiations and reach collective agreements on health and safety issues with the employer.

 

They also have the right to ensure that the law on health and safety and other issues, as well as the provisions of collective agreements, are being complied with. As well as access to the workplace the union should be given the necessary documentation by management and management should cooperate with the union during the inspection. It should also report on the measures taken to eliminate areas of non-compliance.

 

The union has specific health and safety powers to:

  • check whether the employers has created the conditions for safe working and has eliminated risks;
  • make regular inspections of the workplace and the employer’s facilities, and check on the management of personal protective equipment;  and
  • be involved in the investigation of industrial injuries and their causes and check whether the employer investigate them properly.

 

The government bears the cost of the unions’ supervision of health and safety.

 

However, the right of the union to order the employer to make changes if there are deficiencies in health and safety provision and to require work to be stopped if the danger is imminent was removed by the constitutional court ruling in 2008. 

 

Frequency of meetings

 

The frequency of meetings is not specified in the legislation.

 

Election and term of office

 

The rules regulating the choice of union representatives dealing with health and safety are a matter for the union. However, where safety representatives are elected, the labour code lays down a number of elements in the electoral procedure.

 

One key provision is that the process of electing safety representatives (and a works council) only begins if there is a written proposal from at least one third of employees that such an election should take place. Without a request from this proportion of employees, there is no requirement for the employer to set up health and safety representation. Once an adequately supported request has been received, the employer has three months to organise an election, which should be organised by an election committee, made up of between three and nine employees, chosen in the order in which they signed the request for employee representation. The election committee draws up the rules for the election but it must ensure that all employees have the right to vote and be elected. The election results are only valid if more than half of the employees who are able to vote (taking account of absences) do so.

 

The rules governing the term of office for union representatives dealing with health and safety are set by the union. For elected safety representatives, the term of office is three years.

 

Resources, time off and training

 

Union representatives and elected safety representatives have a right to paid time off to undertake their duties. The employer should also provide and pay for the conditions to enable them exercise their functions effectively. This could include the provision of the appropriate rooms and technical equipment, as well as access to the necessary documentation.

 

The employer should also provide them with training on health and safety issues and there is also a right to up to five days’ paid time off for union training per year.

 

Protection against dismissal

 

Both union representatives and elected safety representatives are protected by the section in the labour code which states that employee representatives should not be placed at a disadvantage or discriminated against because of their activities.

Other elements of workplace health and safety

 

Risk prevention is one of the responsibilities of employers but those with 25 employers or fewer do not need to appoint a specialist employee to carry out .this task. They can do it themselves, provided they have the “necessary competency”. Employers with between 26 and 500 workers can carry out the task themselves or delegate it to someone who is professionally competent in this area. Those employing more than 500 are obliged to use the services of a “professionally competent person”, although this individual must not necessarily be directly employed.

 

National context

 

The ministry responsible for health and safety at work is the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Ministerstvo práce a sociálních věcí). The body responsible for monitoring compliance with health and safety laws and regulations is the State Labour Inspection Office (Státní úřad inspekce práce).

 

Trade unions and employers are able to influence health and safety policy through their participation in the main tripartite body, the Council of Economic and Social Agreement (Rada Hospodářské a Sociální Dohody – RHSP), which regularly discusses health and safety issues. The tripartite body under the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is the Government Council for Safety, Hygiene and Health at Work (Rada vlády pro BOZP) with four permanent committees and several ad-hoc working groups.[2]

 

Key legislation

 

Law 262/2006, as amended, Labour Code

Law 309/2006 (OHS), as amended

Governmental Decree 101/2005 (Workplace and Working environment) as amended

Governmental Decree 361/2007 as amended (Occupational health)

           

           

Zákon č. 262/2006 Sb. V platném znění, Zákoník práce

Zákon č. 309/2006 Sb. o zajištění dalších podmínek bezpečnosti a ochrany zdraví při práci

Nařízení vlády č. 101/2005 Sb. o podrobnějších požadavcích na pracoviště a pracovní prostředí

Nařízení vlády č. 361/2007 Sb., kterým se stanoví podmínky ochrany zdraví při práci   

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

[2] For more information on the national context see  OSH system at national level – Czech Republic by Ferenc Kudász and Šárka Vlková , OSH Wiki https://oshwiki.eu/wiki/OSH_system_at_national_level_-_Czech_Republic

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.