Home / National Industrial Relations / Countries / Slovak Republic / Health and Safety

Health and Safety Representation

Specially chosen employee safety representatives, who in the first instance are chosen by the union or the works council rather than being elected, represent the interests of employees in the area of health and safety. Joint health and safety committees must be set up in larger employers (above 100 employees) but they are only required to meet once a year.

Basic approach at workplace level

 

It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure the health and safety of his or her employees.

 

Employee health and safety bodies

 

Employee safety representatives (zástupca zamestnancov pre bezpečnosť) are the main channel for representing the interests of employees in the area of health and safety. In larger organisations (more than 100 employees) a joint health and safety committee, literally committee for safety and health protection at work (komisia bezpečnosti a ochrany zdravia pri práci), should be set up, in which the employees must always be in the majority.

 

Numbers and structure

 

There is no lower threshold, in terms of the number of employees, for the appointment of employee safety representatives and, in more hazardous industries, the maximum which each representative can represent is 50. In other words, in these industries, which include manufacturing, construction as well as the health service, an employer with up to 50 employees would have to have one employee safety representative; one with 51 to 100 would have to have two; one with 101 to 150 three; and so on. In other less hazardous industries each employee safety representative can represent up to 100 employees.

 

An employer with more than 100 employees, irrespective of the industry, must set up a joint health and safety committee. The employer’s representatives on the committee are the organisation’s health and safety professionals (see below), while the employee safety representatives represent the employees. The employee safety representatives must always be in a majority.

 

Research by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in 2014 found that 64% of workplaces in Slovakia had health and safety representatives and 24% had a health and safety committee. These figures are both above the EU-28 averages, which are 58% for health and safety representatives and 21% for health and safety committees. (The results relate to workplaces with five or more employees.)[1]

 

Tasks and rights

 

Employee safety representatives or employees themselves should be able to discuss important health and safety issues with the employer. The employer should provide employees or employee safety representatives with the relevant documentation and give them a reasonable time to express their views on:

  • health and safety policy, including its implementation and evaluation;
  • the proposed selection of equipment, the technologies used, work organisation and working environment;
  • the appointment of health and safety professionals;
  • the use of external providers of health and safety services;
  • risk assessment and implementation of protective measures, including the provision of protective equipment, both personal and collective;
  • accidents, dangerous occurrences, occupational diseases, including the results of investigations into their causes;
  • the provision of health and safety information; and
  • the training of employee safety representatives.

 

The main rights of the employee safety representatives are to:

  • monitor the workplace and ensure that measures to protect health and safety at work are implemented;
  • request information from the employer on the factors influencing health and safety, and to discuss these with the workplace trade union organisation or works council and, provided the employer agrees, with experts, although without disclosing confidential information;
  • cooperate with the employer and submit proposals for measures to improve health and safety;
  • request that the employer remove identified shortcomings and, where the employer fails to do this, to initiate action with the competent authorities,
  • participate in discussions with the employer  about health and safety protection, and to participate in discussions and ask for information about:  
    • investigations into accidents, dangerous occurrences and occupational diseases,
    • measurements of the working environment, and
    • inspections by the appropriate authorities and the recommendations arising from them;
  • make comments and proposals to the competent inspectorate or other authority during inspections.

 

The rights of the health and safety committee are to:

  • evaluate regularly the situation in the area of health and safety at work, the frequency of working injuries, occupational diseases and similar events, and to evaluate other issues concerning health and safety at work, including the working environment and working conditions;
  • propose measures in the management, control and improvement of the situation in the field of health and safety at work;
  • provide statements on all issues connected to health and safety at work; and
  • request information from the employer as required for the execution of its activities.

 

However, the legislation makes clear that setting up a health and safety committee protection does not affect the powers of the employee safety representatives.

 

Frequency of meetings

 

The health and safety committee must meet at least once a year.

 

Election and term of office

 

Employee safety representatives are appointed on the recommendation of the local trade union body or the works council. Only if these do not exist are they elected by the workforce. The term of office is not specified.

 

Resources and time off

 

The legislation states that the employer is obliged to provide “adequate” paid time off to allow employee safety representatives to carry out their duties but it does not specify how long this should be. The employer should also provide sufficient training, as well as the other resources the employee safety representatives need to perform their functions.

 

Protection against dismissal

 

Employee safety representatives should not be disadvantaged for carrying out their role.

 

Other elements of workplace health and safety

 

The employer must provide a safety technical service (bezpečnostnotechnická služba), which can be provided either internally (by appropriately trained employees) or externally (by health and safety experts authorised by the National Labour Inspectorate – see below). The number and qualifications of the health and safety experts required, either internally or externally depends on the number of employees and the nature of the risks involved, and the legislation sets this out. In workplaces operating in less risky industries there should be one safety technician for the first 600 employees, two for 601 to 1,200 and one additional safety technician for every 1,000 employees after that.   In more risky industries, which include manufacturing as well as construction, energy and water supply and health care, there must be one safety engineer (someone with higher qualifications than a safety technician) for the first 400 employees, two safety engineers for 401 to 800 employees, and three (or two safety engineers and a safety technician) for 8,00 to 1,200. Above this number there must be one extra for every additional 1,000 employees.

 

However, where there are fewer than 19 employees (five in riskier industries) the employer can undertake the duties of the safety technician, provided that he or she has been adequately trained (at least 16 hours of training).

 

The employer must also provide an occupational health service, almost always provided externally, for workers in particularly hazardous occupations.

National context

 

The ministry responsible for health and safety at work is the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic (Ministerstvo práce, sociálnych vecí a rodiny Slovenskej Republiky – MPSVR SR). Compliance with health and safety laws and regulations is ensured through the National Labour Inspectorate (Národný inšpektorát práce – NIP), which also enforces labour and social security legislation.

 

Trade unions and employers are able to influence health and safety policy through their membership of the tripartite Economic and Social Council of the Slovak Republic (Hospodárska a sociálna rada SR).[2]

 

Key legislation

 

Occupational Safety and Health Protection Act 2006, as amended

Zákon c. 124/2006 Z. z. o bezpecnosti a ochrane zdravia pri práci

[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 – Slovakia by Ferenc Kudász and Jana Gibódová, OSH Wiki  https://oshwiki.eu/wiki/OSH_system_at_national_level_-_Slovakia

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.