The former Labor Safety and Health Act was revised on July 3, 2013, with its title changed to “Occupation Safety and Health Act” (“OSHA” or “the Act”). The amended sections of the Act have been in force since July 3 of this year, except that certain amended sections are expected to come into effect on January 1 of next year, after required supplementary measures are adopted.
The reason for the revisions was that the scope of the former Labor Safety and Health Act had been restricted to laborers in 14 types of occupations, such as construction, manufacturing, etc. Such a narrow scope apparently did not conform with the international consensus on basic human rights regarding protection of the safety and health of workers. To strengthen the protection of worker safety and to prevent occupational injuries, this revision has broadened the scope of the Act’s applicability. Here are the key points of this revision:
- The latest amendment has broadened the scope of OSHA’s application from “laborers” to “”workers”, explicitly setting forth that OSHA applies to laborers of all kinds of occupations, self-employed workers, or any other person engaged in work and is directed or supervised by the responsible authorities in the workplaces.
- For the petrochemical industry engaging in petroleum cracking, or for high-risk businesses engaging in the manufacture, storage, or usage of hazardous chemicals in massive quantity, this amendment added a new rule requiring those industries with high risks to regularly conduct process safety assessments, produce process safety assessment reports, and adopt necessary preventative measures to protect occupational safety of workers. The abovementioned process safety assessment reports shall also be reported by such business entities to the labor inspection agency for reference. (To be enforced from January 1, 2015).
- Since high-risk businesses, such as those in the petrochemical industry, tend to have characteristics of both high output value and high risk, if they do not conduct process safety assessments in accordance with the Act, once the misconduct causes fire, explosions or leakage of chemicals resulting in occupational injuries, the violation would critically imperil the safety of laborers or of the public. Hence, if a business entity’s illegally-obtained gains exceed the statutory maximum fine, the authorities may, according to OSHA and the Administrative Penalty Act, fine such business entity NT$300,000 to NT$1,000,000 for each violation, without being limited by the statutory maximum.
- In view of the general effectiveness of media oversight and public pressure in forcing businesses to improve workplace safety, the latest amendment added new penalties to allow the authorities to publicize the names of the business and of its responsible person when they violate the Act and occupational injuries result.
- When in the course of their employment, laborers discover that there is a threat of imminent danger in the work place, they may terminate work of their own accord and withdraw to safe locations and immediately report to their direct supervisors, provided that such action does not endanger the safety of other workers. The employers shall not dismiss, reassign, fail to pay wages for the period of suspended work, or otherwise impose unfavorable treatment on, the laborers taking such actions.
- If there is an occupational injury causing serious injuries or injuries to the limbs of laborers, the employer shall notify the local labor inspection agency within 8 hours of the occurrence of the injuries, otherwise the employer may be subject to a fine not exceeding NT$300,000. Further, in practice, when occupational injuries occur, laborers hired by contractors are often not compensated, facing a situation where their employer does not have sufficient financial capability to compensate for the damage. Thus, this amendment added a new provision setting forth that when a business entity violates the Act or related safety and health regulations, resulting in occupational accidents suffered by laborers employed by contractors, the business entity shall assume joint liability with its contractors for compensating the injured laborers.