First Meeting of the EU-Estonia Sub-committee No. 5 Human Resources; Research & Technological Development; Social Policy

13 October 1998, BRUSSELS

Milvi Jšnes Head of Working Environment Department

 

LEGISLATIVE DEVELOPMENTS AND PROSPECTS FOR ENFORCEMENT IN THE FIELD OF OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY

On the 2nd of June the Government of the Republic of Estonia accepted the National Policy on Working Environment as a general framework for the improvement of working conditions.

The policy describes: how we plan to develop occupational health and safety; reflects the socio-economic development and seeks to create a competitive economic infrastructure in Estonia. The National Policy guideline expresses the aims and intentions of the government and all involved parties and contains the following principles:

For the implementation of the national policy, on occupational health activities, the Government of the Republic of Estonia has accepted on the 30th of June, 1998, the Occupational Health Programme to the year 2000. This means financial support for the establishment of occupational health services, especially to small and medium sized enterprises, to assist them promote the health and safety of their employees.

Some of the key elements for the improvement of working conditions are:

  1. co-operation on the enterprise level
  2. co-operation on the national level
  3. development of competence
  4. delivery of information and publicity; and
  5. the cost of absenteeism

 

Co-operation on the enterprise level

 

According to our legislation all enterprises employing ten or more employees have an obligation to establish an internal health and safety body, consisting of the foreman/manager and elected health and safety delegates among the employees.

 

The Draft from Act of Occupational Health and Safety Act sets out functions, rights and obligations of the internal health and safety body as follows:

Now we have the legal basis for Internal Control System as a systematic approach to record and ensure the activities of health and safety control are performed in accordance with requirements specified in the regulations.

The Internal Control System assists management to focus as much on health and safety as on other control elements in the company, such as production, efficiency and product quality.

A systematic review and examination of all types of work, working processes and methods, technical equipment, substances and materials, etc., must be made in order to obtain a complete picture of potential exposure and hazards in the enterprise - workplace risk assessment. In order to ensure that all aspects of health and safety at work are included in the workplace assessment, it is important that the internal safety body and the employees participate in the planning and implementation of the workplace assessment.

We consider very important and essential the co-operation of occupational health services in the workplace. Occupational health services can advise and assist the employer, and internal health and safety body to create a general survey of the working environment and to promote health and safety of the employees both physically and mentally.

We stress the importance of co-operation among occupational health professionals, including occupational health physicians and nurses, labour inspectors, occupational hygienists, occupational psychologists, specialists involved in ergonomics, in accident prevention and in the improvement of the working environment as well as in occupational health and safety research. The trend is to mobilise the competence of these occupational health professionals into multi-disciplinary team as a new approach in the development of occupational health system.

Co-operation on the national level

In order to develop co-operation between workers, employer organisations and government in the elaboration and implementation of occupational health and safety measures at the national level we established, in July 1997, Working Environment Council, consisting of equal representation from the three main partners.

This tripartite body is a way of jointly formulating agreed solutions on common socio- economic concerns by the social partners- Workers, Employers and Government. It relies on the potential, and the strength, of communication and consultation leading to co-operation, as a method of resolving issues.

So far as tripartite consultations in Estonia is a relatively recent phenomenon, we have to consider the historical weakness of tripartism and however, not without difficulties, we express our attention and belief to this useful process for involvement of government and social partners as active and committed partners.

COMPETENCE

Training and education on occupational health and safety is one of the most important means of improving the working conditions. Appropriate training improves the possibilities both of debating and analysing problems and a finding the technical and economic means most suitable for solving these problems.

The main target groups for training are the members of internal safety body, including managers, their representatives and health and safety delegates of employees. Today we have 24 training centres, private

institutions, licenced by the Ministry of Education, providing training on health and safety matters over a two-three day period.

We have accepted the need for a modern training system and training of all involved parties to be based upon a sound training strategy introducing new training programmes for example modules and training materials and based on risk assessment principles.

Delivery of Information and Publicity

For the development of information dissemination on health and safety we have agreed at the Working Environment Council to prepare and issue guidelines and leaflets on the following priority topics:

THE COST OF ABSENTEEISM

The following table estimates the total cost of illness across Estonia. Absenteeism in the workplace, indicates that the health issues are still relevant from an economic point of view. Serious efforts need to be made to reduce the total costs of illness and accidents.

Occupational health services and research on work-related health hazards are of crucial importance in this context. Although only part of all illnesses are work-related, the occupational health services can play a decisive role in affecting people`s health behaviour.

Now we would like to see companies take on interest in calculating and estimating the cost of workplace absenteeism by themselves and begin to consider the problems more seriously, in order to determine:

Social and financial losses in Estonia

 

 

1996 

1997

Sick leave compensation, incl. occ.accidents

460 047 881 EEK

552 022 244 EEK

sick days / per year:

7 807 007

7 573 872

Medical care costs

914 875 650 EEK

867 858 438 EEK

No of workers:

637 985

634 214

sick workers / per day:

30 143

32 787

GNP

50 000 000 000

63 000 000 000

GNP per/worker per/day:

303 EEK

430EEK

GNP loss per all workers per/day:

9 133 329 EEK

14 098 410 EEK

GNP loss per all workers per/year:

2 009 332 380 EEK

3 256 732 710 EEK

All costs of absenteeism:

3 384 255 911 EEK

4 676 613 392 EEK

% of GNP:

6,8

7,4

Early retirement at age of 18-64

39 770

43 544

GNP loss per/day:

12 050 310 EEK

18 723 920 EEK

GNP loss per/month:

253 056 510 EEK

393 202 320 EEK

GNP loss per/year:

2 783 621 610 EEK 

4 325 225 520 EEK

Total costs of absenteeism:

6 167 877 521 EEK

9 001 838 912 EEK

% of GNP:

12,3

14,3

 

The Draft Act of Occupational Health and Safety. (Council Directive of 12 June 1989 89/391/EEC)

The Draft Act provides the legislative basis for the following implementing regulations, already drafted:

1. The Regulation of Government on occupational safety and health requirements for the workplace (Council Directive of 30 November 1989 89/654/EEC ) concerning the minimum safety and health requirements for the workplace (first individual directive within the meaning of Article 16 (1) of Directive 89/391/EEC)

2. The Regulation of Minister of Social Affairs on the minimum requirements for the provision of safety and/or health signs at work (Council Directive of 24 June 1992 92/58/EEC ) on the minimum requirements for the provision of safety and/or health signs at work (ninth individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16 (1) of Directive 89/391/EEC )

3. The Regulation of Government on occupational safety and health requirements for the use of work equipment ( Council Directive of 30 November 1989 89/655/EEC )concerning the minimum safety and health requirements for the use of work equipment by workers at work (second individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16 (1) of Directive 89/391/EEC and 95/63/EC)

4. The Regulation of Government: The procedure for the choice and use of personal protective equipment ( Council Directive of 30 November 1989 89/656/EEC ) on the minimum health and safety requirements for the use by workers of personal protective equipment at the workplace (third individual directive within the meaning of Article 16 (1) of Directive 89/391/EEC)

5. The Regulation of Government on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to noise at work ( Council Directive of 12 May 1986 86/188/EEC )on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to noise at work)

6. The Regulation of Government on safety and health requirements for construction sites (Council Directive of 24 June 1992 92/57/EEC ) on the implementation of minimum safety and health requirements at temporary or mobile construction sites (eighth individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16 (1) of Directive 89/391/EEC)

7. The Regulation of Minister of Social Affairs:Requirements of occupational safety and health of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens at work. (Council Directives 90/394, 89/391).

There are minimum requirements designed to guarantee a better standard of health and safety as regards the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens at work is essential to ensure the health and safety of workers.

8. The Regulation of Minister of Social Affairs:Requirements of occupational safety and health of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work.(Council Directives 83/477, 91/382).

There are minimum requirements designed to guarantee a better standard of health and safety as regards the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work. There are included the safety sign for asbestos and the descriptions for the collecting data about the workers, exposed to asbestos and about the work conditions in workplace.

9. The Regulation of the Government: Requirements of occupational safety and health of workers from the risks related to exposure to biological agents at work. (Council Directives 90/679, 93/88, 95/30, 97/597, 97/65.)

10. The Regulation of Minister of Social Affairs: Occupational exposure limit values to dangerous substances in the air of working environment (Council Directives 91/322, 95/320.)

91/322 on establishing indicative limit values by implementing Council Directive 80/1107 EEC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to chemical, physical and biological agents at work.

About 270 dangerous substances are listed with their occupational exposure limit values and with their dangerous effects.

Under the regulation will be established the Scientific Committee for Occupational Exposure Limits to Chemical Agents for the examine the health effects of chemical agents on workers at work according the 95/320 EC.

Already in force are:

1. The Regulation of Minister of Social Affairs Approval of the requirements on occupational health and safety while working with a screen (RTL 1996, 39, 250)( Council Directive of 29 May 1990 90/270/EEC )

2. The Regulation of Minister of Social Affairs on manual handling of heavy loads (RT I 1993, 67, 961) ( Council Directive of 29 May 1990 90/269/EEC )

Phare Support for 1998 - 2000

The specific objectives are to support actions designed to implement the Framework Directive 89/391/EEC the Stage I and to establish a prioritised programme for legislative and institutional development in relation to the Stage II OSH measures

EU dimension and enhanced awareness of the NLI, and its work from the perspective of accession


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