Health and Safety Representation

Health and safety representation in Slovenia is primarily provided through the works council, which can be set up in any company with more than 20 employees. Only if there is no works council is a health and safety representative elected.

Basic approach at workplace level

 

It is the employer’s duty to ensure the health and safety of workers at work but the employer must allow workers to take part in discussions on all questions relating to health and safety at work, either directly or through their representatives.

 

There is also an explicit role for the trade unions in the workplace, who should be informed on some issues.[1]

 

Employee health and safety bodies

 

Employees exercise their rights to be informed and consulted on health and safety issues either directly or through the works council (svet delavcev). Only if there is no works council, is a workers health and safety representative (delavski zaupnik za varnost in zdravje pri delu) elected. In practice health and safety issues are frequently dealt with in a works council committee (odbor sveta delavcev), but this does not have final decision-making power.

 

Numbers and structure

 

Employees can set up a works council in any company with more than 20 employees. (Works councils in Slovenia are set up on a company rather than a plant basis.) They can also be set up in non-corporate structures. However, in these cases the lowest threshold is 50 employees.

 

The size of the works council varies according to the number of employees as follows:

 

Number of employees

Number of works council members

21-50

3

51-100

5

101-200

7

201-400

9

401-600

11

601-1,000

13

There are then an extra two members for every further 1,000 employees.

 

The works council, which is a body composed entirely of employees, should elect a chair and a deputy chair and it can set up specialist committees to cover issues of particular interest to certain groups of workers.

 

One of these specialist committees is often a health and safety committee. However, although other employees can be involved in this committee at least two thirds of its members must also be members of the works council. In addition, although the committee has a formal position – for instance management must be informed of its membership and powers, it does not have fully delegated powers. Only the works council can take the final decision.

 

Research by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in 2014 found that only 34% of workplaces in Slovenia had health and safety representatives but 24% had a health and safety committee. The figure for health and safety representatives is below the EU-28 average of 58%, but Slovenia has slightly more workplaces with health and safety committees than the EU-28 average of 21%. (The figures are for workplaces with five or more employees.)[2]

 

Tasks and rights

 

The role of the works council in the area of health and safety is set out in both the Health and Safety at Work Act and the legislation on works councils (Workers’ Participation in Management Act).

 

Under the works council legislation, health and safety is one of the areas subject to consultation between the works council and the employer. However, it is not, as in the past, subject to joint decision making, and the health and safety issues that are subject to consultation are not set out in detail.

 

The health and safety legislation is more specific. It states that the employer should consult with employees or their representatives, either the works council or, if there is none, the health and safety representative on:

  • the risk assessment and any measure which might affect health and safety at work;
  • the designation of the safety officer, company doctor, workers designated for first aid, and employees responsible for fire safety and evacuation, and
  • the provision of health and safety information to employees and the organisation of health and safety training.

 

In addition, the works council or health and safety representative can require that the employer adopt suitable measures and prepare proposals for the elimination or mitigation of occupational health and safety risks. They can request an inspection by the competent inspection service, if they consider that the safety measures taken by the employer are inadequate. They also have the right to be present at any inspection that concerns the safeguarding of health and safety at work, and have the right to submit observations.

 

The employer should provide the works council or health and safety representative, as well as the trade unions in the company, with the safety statement and risk assessment and documents on accidents at work kept by the employer. The employer should also inform the works council or health and safety representative and the trade unions of the findings, proposals or measures imposed by the health and safety inspectors.

 

Frequency of meetings

 

There is nothing in the health and safety legislation which states how often health and safety should be discussed.  However, the works council legislation says that that the works council should meet at the request of either the employer or the works council “typically once a month”, although these meetings will discuss many other things as well as health and safety.

 

Election and term of office

 

Works council members are elected by the employees in a secret ballot. Candidates can be proposed, either by the unions in the company or by a number of employees. The number needed to nominate starts at three (20 to 50 employees) and increases with the size of the workforce in the company, up to a maximum of 50 (500 or more employees).

 

The health and safety representatives – to be elected only if there is no works council – is elected in the same way.

 

The term of office for both works council and health and safety representative is four years.

 

Resources, time off and training

 

Works council members have significant time off rights for their work, which, of course, covers more than health and safety. Works council members are entitled to time off in medium and large companies. In companies with between 50-100 employees one member is entitled to be released from normal duties on a half-time basis. In companies with 101-300 employees it is two members. In companies with 301-600 employees one person is entitled to be released on a full-time basis, rising to two in companies with 601-1,000. After this threshold there is one for every further 600 workers.

 

The company should also provide an office for the works council members, where they have some release from normal work, and pay for the material and equipment the works council needs. Experts may also be paid by the company if this has been agreed in advance.

 

The legislation states that a health and safety representative should be “granted the mode of work and rights which apply to a works council”.

 

Works council members or the health and safety representative should receive “adequate training” for the execution of their health and safety tasks.

 

Protection against dismissal

 

Workers and their representatives should not be placed at a disadvantage because of exercising their health and safety rights.

 

Other elements of workplace health and safety

 

Employers must designate one or more of their employees as a safety officer (strokovni delavec za varnost pri delu) to undertake health and safety tasks in the organisation. It is for the employer to decide on the number and the professional qualifications of the safety officers needed on the basis of the size and nature of the work process, the number of workers involved in activities posing a risk to health and safety, the number of shifts and the number of separate workplaces to be covered. Safety officers should be given the necessary training and should not be disadvantaged because of their actions.

 

Where there are health and safety tasks that cannot be undertaken by the internal safety officers, the employer may entrust them to competent external health and safety services, which must be authorised by the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities (see below).

 

National context

 

The ministry responsible for health and safety at work is the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities (Ministrstvo za delo, družino, socialne zadeve in enake možnosti). The responsibility for monitoring compliance with health and safety laws and regulations lies with the Slovenian Labour Inspectorate (Inšpektorat RS za delo) an administrative body within the Ministry. The Inspectorate also monitors compliance with labour and social security law.

 

Trade unions and employers are able to influence health and safety policy through their membership of the Council of Health and Safety at Work (Svet za varnost in zdravje pri delu). This is an advisory body of the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities and its memberships consists of health and safety experts plus representatives of employers and trade unions, who are appointed by the minister on the recommendation of the tripartite body in Slovenia, the Economic and Social Council (Ekonomsko-socialni svet – ESS).[3]

 

Psychosocial risks are specifically included in Slovenia’s main health and safety legislation, the 2011 Health and Safety at Work Act. It states: “The employer shall adopt measures to prevent, eliminate and manage cases of violence, bullying, harassment and other forms of psychosocial risks at the workplace which can pose a threat to workers’ health” (Article 24).

 

Key legislation

 

Health and Safety at Work Act 2011

Worker Participation in Management Act (consolidated text) 2007

Zakon o varnosti in zdravju pri delu (ZVZD-1) 2011

Zakon o sodelovanju delavcev pri upravljanju (uradno prečiščeno besedilo) (ZSDU-UPB1) 2007

[1] For more information see The role of employees' representatives in the field of occupational safety and health: the Slovenian perspective, by Valentina Franca; Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business; July 2011, Vol. 3 Issue 3, p413

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

[3] For more information on the national context see  OSH system at national level – Slovenia by Nina Kos and Ana Lozar, OSH Wiki https://oshwiki.eu/wiki/OSH_system_at_national_level_-_Slovenia

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.

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