A recent amendment to the Act on Labour Safety (Act XCIII of 1993) reduced the number of employees who can be employed at a workplace before an employer must elect a work safety representative from 50 to 20. The new regulation will effect more than 10,000 employers.
A work safety representative is entitled to:
- represent employees in consultations regarding workplace health and safety; and
- consult on the measures to be implemented, thereby ensuring the protection of employees' right for a safe workplace.
This update describes the context of this amendment and discusses the administrative measures that employers must take.
The Act on Labour Safety establishes the legal status of work safety representatives. Representatives must be employees and be elected to the position by their fellow employees. Once elected, they have a range of powers, including – in the case of danger or infringement – the power to intervene against employer actions in order to ensure workplace health and safety. Further, representatives are entitled to inspect whether occupational health and safety regulations and requirements are being enforced in the workplace, particularly in regards to:
- the safety of the workplace and work and personal safety equipment;
- the implementation of measures to protect employee health and prevent accidents and occupational diseases in the workplace; and
- employee preparation regarding occupational health and safety in the workplace.
To aid in the enforcement of workplace safety regulations, representatives have broad powers. For example, they are entitled to:
- access various areas of the workplace and conduct inquiries;
- participate in employer decision making that will affect employee health and safety (eg, the organisation of occupational safety training and the preparation of bylaws);
- request information from their employer with regard to the actions taken to ensure a safe working environment; and
- initiate procedures against their employer through the competent authority and express their opinion regarding any problems that they have noticed.
Further, if the employer implements written policies or regulations to ensure occupational health and safety, it must consult with and obtain prior consent from the representative.
Because of representatives' rights and entitlements, they are protected against dismissal while they occupy the position and for six months thereafter. This protection is similar to that enjoyed by other types of employee representative.
The election of a representative is not only an employer obligation, but an employee right. Employers must inform employees of this right and ensure that they provide appropriate conditions for the election. Representatives must be elected by January 8 2017; their mandate will last five years. Only employees who have been employed for at least six months and whose habitual workplace is that to which the election pertains are eligible for election. Executive employees and their relatives and employees whose regular tasks and principal activities are linked to occupational health and safety cannot be elected.
- ensure that their representative receives appropriate training; and
- provide at least 16 hours of health and safety training in the first year and eight hours each year thereafter.
Representatives' working hours must also be reduced so that they have sufficient time to perform the role.
Employers with 20 or more employees must take administrative action in December 2016 to comply with the new requirements. Employers with more than 50 employees may also need to elect a representative if they have not already done so, as stricter regulation is likely. Where an employee fails to elect a representative, the authorities can impose a fine of Ft500,000 (approximately €1,600).
In addition to the election of a representative, a revision of the occupational health and safety regulations may also be necessary. The reason behind the stricter new provisions is that the number of registered work accidents has increased by 50% since 2011 (from 11,264 to 16,554). The number of fatal work accidents has also shown a slight increase. In the past few years, approximately 50 fatal accidents, on average, have been registered annually. However, this rose to 60 in 2016. Research shows that the machinery and processing sectors are the most dangerous, so companies in these sectors can expect increased attention from the authorities.
Employers that are affected by the new regulation are advised to ensure that they comply with the requirements governing health and safety at work and elect a work safety representative.
This article was first published by the International Law Office, a premium online legal update service for major companies and law firms worldwide. Register for a free subscription.