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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).


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 organisation’s health and safety and occupational health specialists, where these are present (see below), should also be involved. The employer draws 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.


Research by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in 2014 found that 78% of workplaces in Lithuania had health and safety representatives but only 13% had a health and safety committee. The figure for health and safety representatives is above the EU-28 average of 58%, but Lithuania has fewer health and safety committees than the EU-28 average of 21%. (The figures are for workplaces with five or more employees.)[1]

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.)


The specific role of the health and safety committee is to:

  • examine the causes of accidents at work and occupational illnesses and make proposals as to how these could be avoided in the future;
  • consider the overall health and safety status of the organisation and the results of the risk assessment;
  • consider how well the organisation complies with health and safety legislation;
  • consider particularly the situation of pregnant women, women who have recently given birth and the disabled;
  • consider the procedures for health and safety training;
  • investigate the provision of medical examinations and make proposals to improve the occupational health of the workforce;
  • consider the sanitary and hygiene facilities at the workplace as well as the provision of personal protective equipment;
  • examine how health and safety could be improved through collective agreements;
  • make proposals for local health and safety legal regulations; and
  • examine disagreements between an employee and the employer, or the employer’s representative, where an employee has refused to work.


The decisions of the health and safety committee, which must be taken by a two-thirds majority, are recommendations. However, they are binding on the employer in terms of requiring work to be suspended in the following circumstances:

  • when workers have not be trained to work safely;
  • when equipment has failed or there is an emergency;
  • when technical regulations are not being complied with;
  • when protective equipment, either personal or collective, has not been provided; and
  • when the working environment is harmful and/or hazardous to health and life.


If, in these circumstances, the employer refuses to comply with the committee’s decision, either to suspend work or remedy the deficiency, the committee should immediately inform the State Labour Inspectorate.


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 must 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.


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


Employee representatives with specific responsibilities for health and safety must 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.


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


Other elements of workplace health and safety


The employer is obliged to provide a health and safety service, either internally, though health and safety experts who are employees, or externally, through a specialist health and safety organisation.


Where the organisation uses its own employees to provide this health and safety service, regulations set out the number and the qualifications of the experts who must undertake these tasks. The number varies with the type of operations undertaken by the organisation (divided into three groups, depending on the hazards present) and the number of employees. For example, in large organisations (1,000 employees or more) in the most dangerous industries, such as the chemical industry, the employer must employ four health and safety specialists and three occupational health professionals, one of whom must be an occupational physician. In the least dangerous industries, like retail or finance, an organisation with 1,000 employees only need three health and safety specialists.


In smaller organisations, those with fewer than 10 employees in the most hazardous industries, fewer than 20 in the middle category and fewer than 50 in the least dangerous, the employer can undertake the duties of the health and safety specialist.

National context


The ministry responsible for health and safety at work is the Ministry of Social Security and Labour (Socialinės apsaugos ir darbo ministerija). The body responsible for ensuring compliance with Lithuania’s health and safety law is the State Labour Inspectorate (Valstybinė darbo inspekcija) which is part of the same ministry.


Trade unions and employers are able to influence health and safety policy through their participation in the Safety and Health at Work Commission of the Republic of Lithuania (Lietuvos Respublikos darbuotojų saugos ir sveikatos darbe komisija). This is a consultative body, with equal representation from the unions, the employers and state institutions, including the State Labour Inspectorate.[2]


Lithuanian health and safety legislation makes specific reference to psychosocial risks. The 2003 Health and Safety at Work Act describes occupational health, among other things as “adapting of the working environment to physiological and psychological capabilities of workers”. Specific psychosocial assessment guidelines are set out in separate regulations, Order No. V-699/ A1-241, adopted in August 2005.


Key legislation


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

General Regulations on Occupational Health and Safety Committees (9 September 2013)

Order on Model Regulations of Occupational Safety and Health Services in

Undertakings (2 June 2011)


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

Į s a k y m a s dėl darbuotojų saugos ir sveikatos komitetų bendrųjų nuostatų patvirtinimo 2013 m. rugsėjo 9 d. Nr. A1-502

Įsakymas dėl įmonių darbuotojų saugos ir sveikatos tarnybų pavyzdinių nuostatų patvirtinimo 2011 m. birželio 2 d. Nr. A1-266/V-575


[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 – Lithuania by Audrius Spirgys and Gediminas Vilkevicius, OSH Wiki https://oshwiki.eu/wiki/OSH_system_at_national_level_-_Lithuania

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.