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System of labour protection services

Labour Protection Law, with the requirements of the EU law included, from the very day of its coming into force (January 1st, 2002) provided to create the labour protection system where the enterprises have an opportunity, but in some cases an obligation, to involve competent experts and competent institutions in the labour protection field. The model of competent institutions and competent experts is working in Europe for a long time already, whereas in Latvia it started to work in full just on the January 1st, 2006, when the Regulations Nr.99 of the Cabinet of Ministers of the February 8th, 2005, "Regulations about the Kinds of Entrepreneurship where a Competent Institution has to be Involved by the Employer" and Regulations Nr.101, "Regulations about the Requirements to the Competent Institutions and Competent Experts in the Labour Protection Matters and about the Procedure of Evaluation the Competence." came into force.

 The system of labour protection differs in each of the Member States of European Union, as differ the requirements both to the enterprises and to the competent experts and institutions. During the development of the Latvian system of the labour protection services, models of several states of European Union were explored, including the ones of Denmark, Nederland, Belgium and Spain. It is clear that in the beginning the requirements can not be as high as in other countries where these systems work for many years and even decades already. Therefore in setting requirements to the competent institutions and competent experts as well as to the enterprises that are obliged to draw in the competent institutions, the system has been developed as flexible to the enterprises as possible. In relation to the competent institutions and competent experts the requirements are set at the lowest level that still guarantee the quality of services provided.

So far several institutions and experts worked in Latvia that offered their labour protection services to enterprises, but the quality was very different so that the employers had to rely largely to their intuition or the recommendations of their colleagues in order not to choose the provider of services of a poor quality. The new system ensures a certain level of competence both of the competent institutions and competent experts that hopefully will ensure also a relevant level of services for the enterprises.

With competent institutions and competent experts, the institutions or experts of the third parties should be understood that the employer involves in arranging their system of labour protection of their enterprise, including the evaluation of the risks of the working environment and developing the measures for their prevention. The Article 9, Part 6 of the Labour Protection Law provides that the Cabinet of Ministers set the requirements to the competent institutions and competent experts as well as to the procedure of the evaluation of their expertise. This is provided by the abovementioned Regulations Nr.101 of the Cabinet of Ministers of the February 8th, 2005, "Regulations about the Requirements to the Competent Institutions and Competent Experts in the Labour Protection Matters and about the Procedure of Evaluation the Competence".

The relatively higher requirements to the competent institution are set because in some kinds of entrepreneurship stated in the Appendix 1 to the Regulations Nr.99 of the Cabinet of Ministers of the February 8th, 2005, the enterprises are obliged to use the services of a competent institution. In turn, drawing in a competent expert is voluntary in all cases.

Basically, involving the competent institution and competent experts is voluntary. Yet there are cases when, according to the Labour Protection Law, such involvement is obligatory. First, if the employer can not create an organizational structural unit in the enterprise in the volume and level as required by the Labour Protection Law (Article 9) and other laws of labour protection, then they involve a competent institution or a competent expert for the creation and maintenance of the system of labour protection.

In turn, if an enterprise is involved into commercial activities mentioned in the Appendix 1 to the Regulations Nr.99 of the Cabinet of Ministers of the February 8th, 2005, "Regulations about the Requirements to the Competent Institutions and Competent Experts in the Labour Protection Matters and about the Procedure of Evaluation the Competence", then the employer is obliged to involve a competent institution into the creation and maintenance of the system of labour protection. The kinds of the commercial activity mentioned in the Regulations are set based on the analysis of the situation in the state during several years in relation to the accidents at work and to the occupational diseases. In these kinds of commercial activity the situation is worse than the average in the state. As the enterprises themselves in these fields were not able to implement and maintain successfully the system of labour protection, it was decided to oblige them to use the services of a competent institution. At the same time, taking into the consideration that even within the limits of one particular field of commercial activity the situation in enterprises in relation to the labour protection can be radically different, there are exceptions provided in the Regulations when the enterprise that has put in order its working environment and labour protection system and that has accordingly reported to the State Labour Inspectorate, will be entitled not to draw in a competent institution. Also, the small enterprises with the number of employees not more than five will not be obliged to involve a competent institution. Thus most of the agricultural and fishing farms will not have to use the services of competent institutions and will have to put the working environment in order by themselves.

In order to get a practical result of the involvement of a competent institution that improve the situation in the enterprise, the Regulations also set the minimum volume of services that the competent institution has to provide in the enterprise:

  • evaluate a working environment risk;
  • evaluate the compliance of the enterprise to the requirements of the labour protection laws and related laws (for example, fire prevention, chemical substance and chemical product safety, safety of dangerous equipment);
  • develop a plan for labour protection in order to eliminate the disclosed risks of the working environment or to reduce them to the accepted level, and ensure the compliance of the enterprise to the requirements of the laws of labour protection.

Taking into the consideration that the situation in the fields of entrepreneurship can change with time, the Appendix 1 to the Regulations will be reviewed after a certain period of time in order to exclude the fields where the situation would be improved notably and if necessary, to include new fields in the list where the situation would worsen.

The mechanism of the operation of the competent institutions and competent experts and the services provided by them the enterprises should consider as an opportunity to improve their working environment and not as an additional burden. Enterprises that already have their own labour protection experts who deal successfully with the issues of labour protection in the enterprise and who have created a well-functioning system of labour protection, do not have to use the services of competent institutions.

The results of this new system of labour protection services will hopefully be apparent in the next few years already when they will show both in the working environment of the enterprises and in the statistics of accidents.