New law on the prevention of work-related accidents approved

The new law on the reform of the legal framework concerning the prevention of work-related accidents has received the support of the main political parties and social partners in Spain. The main goal is to reduce the number of accidents occurring in the workplace.

The Spanish Parliament approved the reform of the legal framework on the prevention of risks in the workplace (pdf file) (Reforma del marco normativo de la prevención de riesgos laborales) on 27 November 2003. The reform aims to reduce the rates of work-related accidents across all industrial sectors. Changes have also been approved to the law on infractions and sanctions in the social order (Ley de infracciones y sanciones en el orden social, 2000), relating to industrial relations infringements.

The high level of agreement in favour of the reform is largely due to the Round table on social dialogue (pdf file) (Mesa de Diálogo Social) that took place on 30 December 2002. The Spanish Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the main trade unions (CC.OO. and UGT) and employers’ organisations (CEOE and CEPYME) all took part in these discussions. The rate of work accidents in Spain were foremost on the agenda. As shown in the table below, the overall rate of work-related accidents has in fact increased since 1996, the year in which the previous law on the prevention of risks in the workplace came into force.

Work-related accident rates in Spain 1996-2002
1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002
Incidence of accidents (1) 6,191.9 6,488.2 6,834.3 7,437.4 7,558.4 7,349.9 7,057.2
Frequency of accidents (2) 5.6 5.8 5.6 5.4 5.3 4.7 4.8
Incidence of fatal accidents (1) 9.8 10.1 9.8 9.4 9.2 8.0 8.3
Frequency of fatal accidents (3) 35.5 37.3 39.3 42.9 43.7 42.8 41.2
(1) Number of accidents and fatal accidents during working hours / 100,000 workers(2) Number of accidents during working hours / million hours worked(3) Number of fatal accidents during working hours / 100 million hours worked

Spanish Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, 2003


Two conditions of the new law will ensure that accidents prevention in the workplace will become an integral part of the entire business operation:

  • Companies are required to draw up a prevention plan for workplace accidents, to be included in the general business management system. This plan will include a risk assessment analysis and a series of preventive activities. The workers’ representatives in charge of risk prevention must approve and monitor the plan.
  • Companies engaged in dangerous activities will have to appoint a person in charge of safety and workplace accidents, who in addition to other tasks is required to be present at times of highest risk.


The modifications to the law on infractions and sanctions in the industrial relations sphere will improve the monitoring of compliance. Sanctions will be imposed in the event of non-compliance with the following requirements:

  • inclusion of preventive activities within businesses;
  • definition, approval and implementation of the risk prevention plan;
  • risk assessment, and implementation of any resulting recommendations;
  • monitoring of preventive activities and adoption of measures to ensure that everyone involved receives accurate information on existing risks.

The following will be regarded as very serious infractions:

  • practices aimed at avoiding the approved legal framework on preventing risks in the workplace;
  • hiring employees through temporary employment agencies without making sure, prior to their commencing work, that they have been provided with information on workplace risks, as well as appropriate training and a health check.

From 2005, it is planned to introduce a penalty system whereby companies with high work accident rates will be obliged to pay increased social security contributions.

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