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Health and Safety Representation

Workers’ health and safety representatives represent Maltese employees in the area of health and safety. However, the legislation does not specify how many should be appointed or define their precise powers. They should be chosen by the employees in the first instance but, if the employees do not make a choice, the representatives are appointed by the employer.

Basic approach at workplace level

 

The legislation makes clear that it is the duty of the employer to ensure the health and safety of all those affected by the work being carried out, and that the appointment of experts or any worker obligations do not affect the principle of employer responsibility. However, workers should cooperate fully and effectively in promoting health and safety.

 

Employee health and safety bodies

 

Employee are represented in the area of health and safety by a workers’ health and safety representative (rappreżentant tas-saħħa u s - sigurtà tal –ħaddiema). The legislation does not provide for health and safety committees, either jointly with the employer or for the employees alone.

 

Numbers and structure

 

The legislation does not contain a specific threshold for the appointment of workers’ health and safety representatives or the number that should be appointed in larger workplaces. It says only that one or more should be chosen, when “a sufficient number of workers are employed. In practice the Occupational Health and Safety Authority in Malta will normally expect a workers’ health and safety representative to be chosen in workplaces with 10 or more employees. In smaller companies, the employer should inform and consult employees directly on health and safety issues.

 

Research by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in 2014 found that 51% of workplaces in Malta had health and safety representatives, slightly below the EU-28 average of 58%. (The figures are for workplaces with five or more employees.)[1]  

 

Tasks and rights

 

There is a general duty on the employer to inform employees and their representatives about:

  • risks and risk assessments;
  • the preventive and protective measures taken; and
  • the procedures to be followed in respect of serious and imminent danger, including evacuation, as well as the arrangements for first aid and firefighting.

 

There is a specific duty on the employer to inform workers’ health and safety representatives about:

  • risk assessments and protective measures; and
  • information on health and safety given to the employer by outside agencies working for the employers as well as by an officer of the health and safety authority.

 

The employer should consult workers and/or workers’ health and safety representatives “in advance and in good time” to promote measures to ensure health and safety at work.

 

Workers and workers’ health and safety representatives are able to make proposals on issues affecting health and safety at work, in particular on:

  • measures with a substantial impact on health and safety;
  • the appointment of employees with responsibilities for fire fighting, first aid and evacuation;
  • risk assessments and preventive and protective measures;
  • accidents at work and occupational diseases;
  • the appointment of health and safety experts or outside health and safety consultants;
  • the information given to employees on health and safety issues; and
  • health and safety training.

 

Workers’ health and safety representatives have a specific right to ask the employer to take measures to remove or mitigate hazards, as well as making proposals as to how that might be done. They can also make representations to the health and safety authority if they consider that the employer is not doing enough to ensure health and safety at work.

 

They should also be specifically informed and consulted about the health and safety implications of the introduction of new technology.

 

Frequency of meetings

 

There are no committees in the Maltese structure and the legislation also does not specify how frequently the workers’ health and safety representatives should meet the employer.

 

Election and term of office

 

Workers’ health and safety representatives are elected or chosen by employees – the method of appointment is not specified in legislation, although it says that employees can make proposals to the employer on how they should be selected.

 

Where, for whatever reason, the workers fail to choose an employee to represent their interests, the employer should appoint an employee to act as the workers’ health and safety representative. It is the duty of the employer to ensure that there is a representative, when there are “sufficient” employees for this to be necessary (see above).The person so appointed can then act on the employees’ behalf after consultation.

 

A survey by the General Workers’ Union in 2007 found that just over a quarter (28%) of health and safety representatives were elected by the employees and the same proportion (28%) were chosen by management. Almost half (44%) were chosen in some other way.[2]

 

The term of office is not specified in the legislation.

 

Resources, time off and training

 

The legislation states that workers’ health and safety representatives should have “adequate” paid time off to carry out their functions but it does not define how much this should be. It also states that the employer should provide them with “the necessary means” to exercise their rights and functions, but again does not define this precisely.

 

Workers’ health and safety representatives should receive “appropriate training”, which should be during working time and paid for by the employer. However, the period required is not specified in the legislation.

 

Protection against dismissal

 

Workers’ health and safety representatives should not be disadvantaged because of any activity undertaken in relation to their health and safety responsibilities. In particular they should not face disciplinary or other action if they have advised workers of an imminent and serious danger to life or health and these workers have stopped work.

 

Other elements of workplace health and safety

 

Maltese legislation does not set out specific thresholds for the appointment of health and safety experts. However, it does state in the key regulations that the “employer shall designate one or more persons having the necessary aptitude, capabilities, competence and training to assist” assist the employer in taking the necessary measure to ensure a health and safe working environment. It is left to the employer to decide how many health and safety are needed and the level of qualifications and training they need, taking account of “the size of the undertaking and, or establishment, the number of persons present at any time, the hazards to which the workers are exposed and their distribution”. If the employer does not employ these individuals directly, he or she may use external health and safety experts or an external health and safety service instead. The Maltese Occupational Health and Safety Authority provides training for health and safety experts and maintains a competent person register (of external health and safety experts)

National context

 

The ministry responsible for health and safety at work is the Ministry for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties (Ministeru għad-Djalogu Soċjali, Affarijiet tal-Konsumatur u Libertajiet Ċivili) and the body with day-to-day responsibility is the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (Awtorità għas-Saħħa u s-Sigurtà fuq il-Post tax-Xogħol). As well as developing policy, the Occupational Health and Safety Authority is also body responsible for ensuring compliance with Malta’s health and safety laws.

 

Trade unions and employers are able to influence health and safety policy through their membership of the board of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority. The unions and the employers each have seats of the nine-person body, although the individuals are appointed by the government to represent the respective interests of the employers and the employees. The other five members are government appointees, most with specific expertise.[3]

 

Health and safety legislation in Malta makes specific reference to the need to tackle psychosocial risks. The 2000 Occupational Health and Safety Authority Act sets out the “measures that need to be taken by an employer to prevent physical and psychological occupational ill-health, injury or death”.

Key legislation

 

Occupational Health and Safety Authority Act: Act XXVII of 2000, as amended

General provisions for health and safety at work places regulations 24th January, 2003: Legal notice 36 of 2003

 

Att dwar L-awtorità għas-saħħa u ssigurtà fuq il-post tax-xogħo: L-Att XXVII ta’ l-2000, kif emendat

Regolamenti dwar disposizzjonijiet ġenerali dwar is-saħħa u s-sigurtà fuq il-post tax-xoghol 24 ta’ Jannar, 2003: L-avviz legali 36 ta’ l-2003

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

[2] Situation of workplace health and safety representatives, EWCO, 2007 http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/ewco/2007/09/MT0709019I.htm

[3] For more information on the national context see  OSH system at national level – Malta by Juliet Hassard, Ceri Jones and Tom Cox, OSH Wiki  https://oshwiki.eu/wiki/OSH_system_at_national_level_-_Malta

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.