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Health and Safety Representation

Health and safety representation in Greece is provided through separately elected health and safety representatives or a health and safety committee in larger companies. The committees are employee bodies but they or the health and safety representative should meet the employer on a regular basis.

Basic approach at workplace level

 

The employer is responsible for health and safety in the workplace, and, although in larger companies there is an obligation to make use of health and safety specialists and works doctors, this does not remove this responsibility. 

 

Employee health and safety bodies

 

In smaller companies, employees have the right to have a health and safety representative and in larger companies there is a health and safety committee (Επιτροπής Υγείας και Ασφάλειας των Εργαζομένων (Ε.Υ.Α.Ε.))

 

Numbers and structure

 

In companies employing 50 people or fewer, there is a single safety representative, although the way he or she is chosen varies depending on whether the company employees 20 or more. In companies with more than 50 employees a health and safety committee can be elected. The size of the committee varies with the number of employees, as follows.

 

Number of employees

Number of members

21 to 100

2

101 to 300

3

301 to 600

4

601 to 1,000

5

1,001 to 2,000

6

2,000 plus

7

  

 

Research by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in 2014 found that 17% of workplaces in Greece had health and safety representatives and 10% had a health and safety committee. These are well 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.)[1] 

 

In practice, the situation may be worse than this, as in a follow-up study on worker participation in the management of health and safety EU-OSHA found that “a significant number of companies reported having some kind of worker representation although they had none”, and concluded that, “the vast majority of companies do not have worker representation at all”.[2]

Tasks and rights

 

Both the health and safety representative and the health and safety committee have an advisory role. Their main responsibilities are:

  • to look at working conditions in the company, monitor compliance with health and safety provisions and make proposals for improvement;
  • where there are serious accidents or other occurrences to make proposals as to how they could be avoided in the future; and
  • to assist with risk assessment in the company.

 

The health and safety representative or the health and safety committee (depending on the size of the company) should be informed by management about accidents and occupational diseases, as well as the introduction of new production processes and working methods, in as far as they have an impact on health and safety. They are able to call on the employer to respond appropriately to any imminent and serious threat, including by halting production. They can also approach the labour inspectorate if they consider the employer’s approach on health and safety to be insufficient.

 

There should be regular joint meetings with management (see below) and minutes of these meetings should be kept.

 

Frequency of meetings

 

The health and safety representative or the health and safety committee should meet the employer or the employer’s representative once every three months, within the first 10 days of the quarter and both sides should inform the other of the issues they wish to raise at least three days before the meeting.

 

Election and term of office

 

In companies with fewer than 20 employees the health and safety representative is chosen by a majority of employees in an informal way.

 

In larger companies more detailed election procedures are laid down. Where there is a works council, which can be set up in companies with 50 employees or more (20 or more in some circumstances), it chooses the members of the health and safety committee. Where there is no works council – the normal situation – the members of the committee or the health and safety representative are elected at a general meeting of the company’s employees.

 

The term of office is two years.

 

Resources, time off and training

 

The health and safety representative or, in larger companies, the members of the health and safety committee have an entitlement to paid time off for their duties. This should not be less than 8.3 hours a year for a company employing up 20 people, 16.7 hours a year for a company employing between 21 and 50 people and 25 hours a year for companies employing more than 50 people. This does not include the quarterly meetings with the employer.

 

They also have the right, with the agreement of the employer, to request the assistance of outside experts.

 

The health and safety representative and the members of the health and safety committee also have the right to appropriate training although the details are not specified in the legislation.

 

Protection against dismissal

 

The health and safety representative and the members of the health and safety committee have legal protection against dismissal. They can only be dismissed in certain closely defined circumstances, such as the disclosure of secret information or the use or threat of violence or abusive language towards the employer.

 

However, the reality may sometimes be very different to the legal situation. The EU-OSHA report on worker participation in the management of health and safety found cases where participation in a health and safety committee “was the reason for a negative performance evaluation or the dismissal of an employee”[3].

 

Other elements of workplace health and safety

 

Legally all employers, even the smallest are required to make use of the services of a health and safety specialist (technician), and larger companies, those with 50 or more employees, must use the services of an occupational physician (works doctor) as well as a health and safety specialist. These services can be provided internally, by direct employees, or externally by a specialist health and safety organisation, or by a combination of these two approaches. If an external organisation is chosen, there must be a written contract and the arrangement must be notified to the Labour Inspectorate.

 

However, in organisations with fewer than 50 employees operating in industries  with lower levels of risk, such as offices, shops and restaurants, employers can assume the duties of the health and safety specialist provided they have had appropriate training. In larger organisations and those with a higher level of risk, the level of training and skill required, as well as the length of time to be spent on health and safety duties, varies in line with the number employed and nature of the industry.    

National context

 

The ministry responsible for health and safety at work is the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Social Solidarity (Υπουργείο Εργασίας, Κοινωνικής Ασφάλειας & Κοινωνικής Αλληλεγγύης), through its Directorate for Safety and Health at Work (Γενική Διεύθυνση Υγείας και Ασφάλειας στην Εργασία).  The Labour Inspectorate (Σώμα Επιθεώρησης Εργασίας, ΣΕΠΕ – SEPE) monitors compliance with health and safety laws and regulations in the public sector and in most private sector industries, although there is a separate inspectorate for mining and quarrying.

 

Trade unions and employers are able to influence health and safety policy through their membership of the Council for Health and Safety at Work (Συμβούλιο Υγείας  και Ασφάλειας των Εργαζομένων, ΣΥΑΕ – SYAE). This also includes representatives of key government ministries and local authorities, as well as the Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE), the Pan-Hellenic Medical Association (PIS) and the Greek Chemists’ Association EEX. There is also a tripartite consultative body, the Council for Social Control of the Labour Inspectorate (Συμβούλιο Κοινωνικού Ελέγχου Επιθεώρησης Εργασίας, ΣΚΕΕΕ – SKEEE) for the Labour Inspectorate. Finally employers and unions work together in the jointly-run Hellenic Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (Ελληνικό Ινστιτούτο Υγιεινής και Ασφάλειας της Εργασίας, ΕΛΙΝΥΑΕ – ELINYAE) which provides expertise, analysis and training on health and safety issues.[4]

Key legislation

 

Law 3850/10 (GG 84 A/2-6-2010): "Ratification of the Code of Laws on the Health and Safety of Workers."

 

Ν. 3850/10 (ΦΕΚ 84 Α/2-6-2010)  Θέμα: «Κύρωση του Κώδικα νόμων για την υγεία και την ασφάλεια των εργαζομένων.»

 

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

[2] Worker participation in the management of occupational safety and health — qualitative evidence from ESENER-2: Country report – Greece, EU-OSHA 2017

[3] Ibid

[4] For more information on the national context see  OSH system at national level – Greece by Spyros Dontas, OSH Wiki  https://oshwiki.eu/wiki/OSH_system_at_national_level_-_Greece

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.