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Health and Safety Representation

Safety representatives, chosen directly by the employees in smaller organisations, and by the existing trade union structures in those with more than 15 employees, provide representation for employees in the area of health and safety in Italy. There is no structure of joint employer/employee safety committees, other than a meeting with the employer and health and safety staff once a year or when there are major changes. However, Italy does have a structure of area safety representatives who cover smaller companies without their own safety representatives.

Basic approach at workplace level


The employer is solely responsible for drawing up a risk assessment and appointing the head of risk prevention. As part of a series of responsibilities in the area of health and safety, the employer and managers working on his or her behalf are required to consult with safety representatives, representing the employees.


Employee health and safety bodies


Employee representation in the area of health and safety at work is primarily provided by safety representatives at local level, known as company safety representatives (rappresentante dei lavoratori per la sicurezza  aziendale – RLS). However, there are also area safety representatives (rappresentante dei lavoratori per la sicurezza territoriale o di comparto - RSLT), covering companies without a safety representative across a specific geographical area, and site safety representatives (rappresentante dei lavoratori per la sicurezza di sito produttivo), who have a coordinating role where several companies share a single site – such as construction sites, ports and transport hubs.


Numbers and structure


There is no minimum employee threshold for the appointment of these company safety representatives, although the election procedures are different in smaller organisations (up to and including 15 employees) from those in larger organisations (see section on elections). The number of company safety representatives is fixed by collective agreement but the law also lays down minimum numbers, as follows.


Number of employees

Minimum number of company safety representatives in law

 Up to 200


201 to 1,000


More than 1,000



The collective agreement for the energy and oil industry, signed in 2010, provides for significantly higher numbers: one company safety representatives for companies with up to 50 employees, two for those with between 51 and 100, three for those with 101 to 300, four for those with 301 to 600, five for those with 601 to 1,000 and six for those with more than 1,000 employees.


Area safety representatives cover companies without their own company safety representative, generally smaller companies, and the arrangements for their appointment are set out in the relevant collective agreements. The work of the area safety representatives is financed by a contribution of two hours’ pay per year per employee from companies without a company safety representative. The health and safety authorities collect these contributions and organise payment for the work of the area safety representative.


Site safety representatives have the task of coordinating the activities of the various company safety representatives at the site.


Safety representatives in companies with more than 15 employees also participate in a health and safety meeting with the employer, which should take place at least once a year.


Research by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in 2014 found that 87% of workplaces in Italy had health and safety representatives. This is the highest percentage in the EU-28 and well above the EU-28 average, which is 58%. (The figures are for workplaces with five or more employees.)[1] 



Tasks and rights


Safety representatives should have access to the workplace in which work is undertaken. Area safety representatives, who cover several workplaces, should normally give prior notice of their intention to visit the workplace, under terms set out in the appropriate collective agreement. However, this does not apply in the case of a serious accident, when it is only necessary to advise the health and safety authorities of the intention to visit.


Safety representatives should be being consulted:

  • beforehand and in good time on risk assessments and measures of prevention;
  • on the appointment of staff with health and safety responsibilities and the company doctor, as well as on fire prevention, first aid and evacuation arrangements; and
  • on the organisation of the health and safety training provided to employees and safety representatives.


The company should also provide safety representatives with information and company documentation on:

  • risk assessment and measures of prevention;
  • dangerous substances;
  • machines and equipment in use;
  • work organisation and the working environment; and
  • accidents and occupational diseases.


Safety representatives should also receive information from the health and safety authorities.


The tasks of safety representatives include: promoting the development and implementation of measures of prevention intended to protect the health and safety of employees; make proposals on preventative actions; and advise the employer of risks encountered in the course of their activities.


Safety representatives can comment to the health and safety authorities when the authorities make inspections, and safety representatives can also call on the authorities if they consider that the measures of prevention and protection taken by the employer are insufficient to guarantee the safety and health of employees.


Safety representatives are also entitled to take part in the annual meeting on health and safety, which should be organised in all companies with more than 15 employees. The other participants are the employer, or his or her representative, the head of the company’s head and safety services and the works doctor, where there is one. This meeting should also take place if there are significant changes in the risks present in the workplace, including those resulting from the introduction of new technology.


At the meeting, the employer should present:

  • the company risk assessment document;
  • information on accidents, occupational diseases and health monitoring;
  • the selection criteria, technical characteristics the effectiveness of personal protective equipment; and
  • health and safety information and training programmes.


The meeting can draw up health and safety guidelines and codes of good practice.


Frequency of meetings


There is no provision for regular meetings, other than the meeting with the employer and those involved in health and safety in the company, which should take place annually.


Election and term of office


Company safety representatives in smaller companies (up to and including 15 employees) are elected directly by the employees. In larger companies (more than 15 employees) they are elected or chosen by the trade union representative structure in the company (normally the unitary trade union structure – RSU), or where this does not exist, directly by the employees themselves. The election procedures are determined by the appropriate collective agreement.


Collective agreements for the industry concerned also determine the procedure for the appointment of area safety representatives. Individuals elected to this position cannot combine it with other trade union duties.


Site safety representatives are chosen from among the company safety representatives on the site and the procedure for appointing them is also determined by the appropriate collective agreement.


Unless otherwise determined in a collective agreement, all safety representative elections should take place annually on the national health and safety at work day, normally in October. 


Resources, time off and training


The legislation states that safety representatives should be given sufficient paid time off to enable them to undertake their role as well as the necessary means and space to do so, but does not specify precisely what this should be.  


However, it does provide greater detail on the training safety representatives should receive. This should cover the basic health and safety legislation, the identification of risks, legislation on the rights of safety representatives and some information on communication techniques. Safety representatives should receive an initial 32 hours’ paid training, of which 12 should be on the risks present in the company, with a right to four hours of training per year thereafter in companies with 15 to 50 employees and eight hours in those with more than 50. Area safety representatives, who cover many different companies, are entitled to an initial 64 hours of training with eight per year thereafter. In both cases, collective agreements may extend these rights.


Protection against dismissal


Safety representatives should not be disadvantaged because of the exercise of their functions.


Other elements of workplace health and safety


Employers are required to provide a protective and preventive health and safety service for their organisation, and this service can normally be provided either within the company or by external experts. In small organisations (those with up to five employees) and in larger organisations which do not involve a high level of risk, the employer can take on the responsibility for this health and safety service. However, in certain larger and more dangerous workplaces, such as industrial plants with more than 200 employees or operations in the extractive industry with more than 50, the protective and preventive health and safety service must be provided internally.


The obligatory qualifications of those providing this health and safety service, whether internally or externally, are set out in detail in the legislation.

In some cases, either because the law requires it or the risk assessment indicates that it is necessary, the employer is obliged to provide health surveillance for the workforce. Where this is the case, it must   be undertaken by a “competent doctor”, in other words an occupational physician.

National context


The ministry responsible for health and safety at work is the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies (Ministero del Lavoro e delle Politiche Sociali). Following legislative changes in 2015, the overall responsibility for monitoring compliance with health and safety laws and regulations lies with the National Labour Inspectorate (Ispettorato Nazionale del Lavoro), which also covers other labour law social contributions issues. However, it coordinates its activities with the inspection services of Local Health Agencies (Azienda Sanitarie Locali – ASL), which previously had prime responsibility for monitoring health and safety, and which continue to be involved.


Trade unions and employers are able to influence health and safety policy through their membership of the Standing Advisory Committee on Health and Safety at Work (Commissione consultiva permanente per la salute e sicurezza sul lavoro) in which, following a restructuring in 2014, central government, regional government, unions and employers are equally represented.[2]


The new consolidated legislation on health and safety passed in 2008 placed an obligation on employers to take account of work-related stress, as defined in the 2004 European Agreement on the same topic (Article 28 of the Testo unico sulla salute e sicurezza sul lavoro –D.LGS 81/2008). This led, in further legislation (D. LGS 106/2009), to the inclusion of the evaluation of work-related stress as one of the elements to be included in the Safety Policy, which all employers must draw up. This requirement came into force on 1 January 2011.

Key legislation


Consolidated text on health and safety at work

Legislative Decree 9 April 2008, n. 81 (1)

Implementation of Article 1 of the Law of 3 August 2007, n. 123, concerning the protection of health and safety in the workplace


Testo unico sulla salute e sicurezza sul lavoro

D.Lgs. 9 aprile 2008, n. 81 (1)

Attuazione dell'articolo 1 della legge 3 agosto 2007, n. 123, in materia di tutela della salute e della sicurezza nei luoghi di lavoro

[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 – Italy by Francesca Grosso and Adriano Papale, OSH Wiki  https://oshwiki.eu/wiki/OSH_system_at_national_level_-_Italy

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.