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Health and Safety Representation

In most companies with at least 50 employees and in some with fewer, employees have the right to elect representatives with health and safety responsibilities to a joint employee/employer health and safety committee. Many of the details of how they work – such as the precise number to be elected or their time-off rights – are left to be agreed between employees and employer in the company or collective agreements.


Basic approach at workplace level


It is the duty of the employer to ensure the safety and health of employees at work. However, employers or their representative must provide conditions for employees and employee representatives with specific responsibilities for health and safety to take part in discussions on health and safety issues.


Employee health and safety bodies


Health and safety committees (darbuotojų saugos ir sveikatos komitetai) should be established in most companies with 50 employees or more and in some cases in smaller companies (see below). They contain an equal number of employer representatives and employee representatives with specific health and safety responsibilities (darbuotojų atstovas saugai ir sveikatai), elected by all employees.


In addition trade unions or, if there is no local trade union, the works council represent the interest of workers in relation to health and safety, and collective agreements can provide more favourable arrangements for dealing with health and safety than those set out in legislation.


Numbers and structure


A joint employer/employee health and safety committee should be set up in most companies with at least 50 employees. In smaller companies it should be set up if either the employer or employee representatives (the local union or the works council) call for it, or if it is requested by more than half of the workforce. A health and safety committee should also be set up in smaller companies, where the government considers that the hazards are greater; examples include chemical production, construction and the railways). There are also some industries, such as hotels and restaurants, education and business services, where the threshold for establishing a health and safety committee is 100 employees.


Half of the members of the health and safety committee are appointed by the employer and half are elected by the employees as employee representatives with specific health and safety responsibilities.


The number of employee representatives with health and safety responsibilities is decided by the local union or works council in conjunction with the employer, although the legislation requires that there is at least one employee safety representative for each separate shift. Where there is more than one employee safety representative, one among them should be designated as the senior employee safety representative.


The health and safety committee is chaired by a representative of the employer and the secretary is from the employees’ side. The employer should draw up rules of procedure, after consulting with the employee representatives and taking account of the government regulations on the operation of health and safety committees. Among other things, these regulations state that decisions should be taken by consensus.


Tasks and rights


The main functions of employee representatives with responsibility for health and safety are to represent the company’s workers on the health and safety committee and to participate in all measures carried out by the employer to improve health and safety in the company, including risk assessment and measures taken to eliminate or mitigate risk.


More specifically, their functions include:

  • participating in the selection and appointment of workers responsible for first aid, rescue measures and evacuation;
  • participating in providing workers with appropriate personal protective equipment and monitoring its use;
  • participating in the investigation of accidents at work, occupational diseases and incidents (provided this has been authorised by the local union or works council); and informing workers about dangers and helping move workers to a safe location, where the employer has asked them to do this.

They also have a right to:

  • to propose and require that the employer’s representative take the necessary steps to ensure workers’ health and safety;
  • to take part in risk assessment and the planning of preventative measures;
  • to approach the employer if his or her representative has failed to take the necessary steps to ensure employees’ health and safety and to approach the labour inspectorate where the employer fails to act;
  • to receive all information on any issues related to health and safety from the employer and the employers’ representative and the company health and safety committee. (Employers have a duty to provide them with all necessary information.)

Frequency of meetings


The health and safety committee should decide how frequently it needs to meet. However, the regulations state that an extraordinary meeting should be called in the event of a fatal or serious accident, an acute occupational disease or an event such as a fire, or where the chair (from the employer) or where a third of all committee members requests it.


Election and term of office


The election of the employee representatives with responsibility for health and safety should be organised by the local trade union in the company, or, if there is none, by the works council. The election should take place at a meeting of all employees and, where a senior employee safety representative must also be chosen (if there is more than one), he or she is the individual with the most votes.


The legislation does not set out a specific term of office.


Resources and time off


Employee representatives with specific responsibilities for health and safety should be given sufficient paid time off to enable them to carry out their functions. It is left to a collective agreement to determine the amount. They should also be given appropriate training, and again a collective agreement sets the amount of training to be provided. The time off needed for the training and the training itself should be paid by the employer.


The employer should provide the safety committee with the office space and other resources to enable it to carry out its duties.


Protection against dismissal


Employee representatives with responsibility for safety should no be disadvantaged for carrying out their functions. They also cannot be dismissed unless the body to which they belong agrees. Where dismissal is refused the employer can take the issue to a court for a final decision


Key legislation


Health and Safety at Work Act (1 July 2003) and subsequently amended


General Regulations on Occupational Health and Safety Committees (29 October 2003)


Darbuotojų Saugos ir Sveikatos Įstatymas 2003 m. liepos 1 d. Nr. IX-1672


Dėl įmonių darbuotojų saugos ir sveikatos komitetų bendrųjų nuostatų patvirtinimo 2003 m. spalio 29 d. Nr. 6-PV5-36

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