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Health and Safety Representation

Elected “trusted representatives”, who then receive training in health and safety, are the key figures representing employees in the area of health and safety. They can be elected at companies with five employees or more, with more being elected at bigger workplaces. There are no joint employee/employer health and safety structures, although the trusted representatives, who are elected for three years, should participate with the employer in a range of health and safety activities.

Basic approach at workplace level

 

The employer has an obligation to organise a system which protects employees at work. However, part of this obligation is to consult with employees to involve them in improving employee protection.

 

Employee health and safety bodies

 

Employee representation in the area of health and safety is provided by what are known as “trusted representatives” (uzticības personas). These are specially elected individuals who receive training in health and safety and their number depends on the size of the company. Although trusted representatives should participate with the employer in a range of health and safety tasks and should take part in meetings, the legislation does not provide for joint employee/employer health and safety committees or other similar structures.

 

Numbers and structure

 

Employee trusted representatives can be elected in all companies with at least five employees. Additional trusted representatives can be elected depending on the size of the company and the nature of the risks involved, and the total number of trustees should be fixed by the employer and the employees in a collective agreement. However, the government has also issued a regulation which recommends the following employment thresholds for additional trusted representatives.

 

Number of employees

Number of trusted representatives

5 to 49

1

50 to 100

2

100 to 500

3

501 to 1,000

4

1,001 to 2,000

5

2,001 to 3,000

6

3,001 to 4,000

7

More than 4,000

12

 

Where a company has two or more trusted representatives, they should elect a main trusted representative; where there are 10 or more trusted representatives, they should set up a committee to coordinate their activities.

 

Research by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) in 2014 found that 27% of workplaces in Latvia had trusted representatives for health and safety. This is below the average for the EU-28, where 58% of workplaces have health and safety representatives. Unsurprisingly, given the high threshold for setting up a committee for health and safety, only 2% of workplaces in Latvia have one. The average figure for the EU-28 is 21%. (The figures are for workplaces with five or more employees.)[1] 

 

The EU-OSHA figures are well above the figures from a national survey carried out in 2013. This found that just 8.7% of companies had trusted representatives, although it also included very small companies – from one employee upwards. Among larger companies the percentages were higher:  42.4% for those with 50 to 250 employees, and 43.3% for those with more than 250.[2]

Tasks and rights

 

Employers have a general obligation to inform both employees and trusted representatives about risks and the health and safety measures being taken as well as to give them specific information on:

  • the results of risk evaluations and a list of jobs especially exposed to risks;
  • the protective equipment being used;
  • accidents at work and occupational diseases; and
  • decisions and instructions from the labour inspectorate relating to health and safety in the company.

 

Employers are obliged to consult with employees and trusted representatives, specifically allowing trusted representatives to participate in meetings on:

  • measures affecting the health and safety of employees;
  • the structure of health and safety protection in the company;
  • the appointment of employees with first aid, fire fighting and evacuation responsibilities;
  • relationships with other employers in the area of health and safety; and
  • health and safety training.

 

Trusted representatives should participate in a range of health and safety activities at the workplace including:

  • risk evaluation;
  • planning health and safety measures;
  • investigating accidents at work and occupational diseases;
  • the introduction of new production facilities and material;
  • ensuring that equipment is health and safety compliant; and
  • cooperating with the employer and health and safety specialist in improving working conditions in the company.

 

They also have a series of specific rights. These include the right:

  • to express their own and the employees’ opinions on health and safety in the company;
  • to receive from the employer the information they need to carry out their duties relating to health and safety in the company;
  • to access workplaces in line with company procedures;
  • to propose that the employer measures the levels of risk if employees have made complaints;
  • to propose a re-evaluation of health and safety risks, where there has been an accident or a serious and imminent threat to employees’ life and health;
  • to request that the employer takes measures to prevent or reduce risks;
  • to propose that the employer should reach health and safety agreements with the employees or should negotiate a collective agreement on the issue; and
  • to participate with the labour inspectorate in workplace inspections.

 

Where there is also a main trusted representative (when there are two trusted representatives or more) they have the right to coordinate and monitor the activities of the others.

 

Frequency of meetings

 

There is nothing in the legislation stating how frequently trusted representatives should meet the employer or how often they themselves should meet.

 

Election and term of office

 

Trusted representatives are elected by simple majority at a meeting of all the company’s employees. The main trusted representative is elected by all the trusted representatives.

 

The term of office for both trusted representatives and the main trusted representative is three years.

 

Resources and time off

 

The employer should provide trusted representatives with the time off necessary for them to undertake their duties. A government regulation recommends the following time-off provision, linked to the number of employees.

 

Number of employees

Total number of hours of time off per week

5 to 49

2

50 to 100

4

100 to 500

8

501 to 1,000

16

1,001 to 2,000

32

2,001 to 3,000

48

3,001 to 4,000

56

More than 4,000

64

 

In addition trusted representatives should receive a total of 50 hours of training for their role, which should start within one month of their election. The training should be undertaken during working hours and the employer should cover the entire cost.

 

Protection against dismissal

 

A trusted representative must not suffer any unfavourable consequences as a result of his own her position. The employer can only dismiss a trusted representative with the consent of the labour inspectorate.

Other elements of workplace health and safety

 

Employers in Latvia must use the services of a health and safety specialist, either be someone employed in the organisation or someone working for an external health and safety body. In companies with 10 or fewer employees the employer can undertake this role provided they have adequate training. For organisations not operating in hazardous industries (as defined by the government) internal employees acting as health and safety specialists must have 60 hours’ training or have higher health and safety qualifications. For organisations operating in hazardous industries, the level of health and safety or qualifications for internal employees increases, going up to higher education in health and safety issues for companies with 11 employees or more.

National context

 

The ministry responsible for health and safety at work is the Ministry of Welfare (Labklājības ministrija), while the State Labour Inspectorate (Valsts Darba Inspekcija) is responsible for monitoring compliance with health and safety regulations.

 

Trade unions and employers are able to influence health and safety policy through their membership of the Labour Tripartite Cooperation Sub-Council (Darba lietu trīspusējās sadarbības apakšpadome – DLTSA). This body is made up of representatives of the government (including from the State Labour Inspectorate), the employers and the unions, and it has a consultative role on a range of labour issues, including health and safety.[3]

 

Latvian health and safety legislation makes specific reference to psychosocial risks. The 2001 Labour Protection Law states that in evaluating risks the employer shall take account of “the effect of physical, chemical, psychological, biological, physiological and other working environment factors”.

 

 

Key legislation

 

Labour Protection Act (20 June 2001) and subsequently amended

Regulation No. 427: The method of election of trusted representatives (17 September 2002) and subsequently amended

 

17.09.2002 Noteikumi nr. 427Darba aizsardzības likums 2001.gada 20.jūnijā

Uzticības personu ievēlēšanas un darbības kārtība

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

[2] Work conditions and risks in Latvia, 2012–2013, Employers’ Confederation of Latvia, 2013

[3] For more information on the national context see  OSH system at national level – Latvia by Ivars Vanadzins and Gediminas Vilkevicius, OSH Wiki https://oshwiki.eu/wiki/OSH_systems_at_national_level_-_Latvia

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.