Portugal: EWCO comparative analytical report on Information, consultation and participation of workers concerning health and safety

  • Observatory: EurWORK
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  • Published on: 21 Οκτώβριος 2010



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Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

The transposition of the 1989 Framework Directive on H&S was made by Decree-Law 441/91, of 14 November, followed by Law 102/2009, of 10 September. The SMEs are specially singled out in the National Strategy for Health and Safety at Work 2008-2012, which foresees some specific objectives and measures targeting SMEs. However, it is not easy to assess the implementation of these measures in SMEs compared with larger enterprises. To deepen the role of the social partners and to involve employers and workers in the improvement of working conditions in companies is one of the policy goals in the domain of health and safety at work in Portugal.

Questionnaire

- How is the 1989 Framework directive on H / S and in particular information / consultation practically implemented in SMEs? Any data available? Do administrative reports exist in particular from the Labour Inspectorate?

The 1989 Framework Directive on H&S was initially transposed by Decree-Law 441/91, of 14 November, which defines the principles aiming at the promotion of safety, hygiene and health at work, in order to adapt internal regulations to the Directive 89/391/CEE. Law 102/2009, of 10 September, ensured the transposition of the 1989 Framework Directive to the national legal framework, regulating the legal regime of promotion and prevention of safety and health at work.

The National Strategy for Health and Safety at Work 2008-2012 ( Estratégia Nacional para a Segurança e Saúde no Trabalho 2008-2012 – Resolution of the Council of Ministers 59/2008) is currently in force. This strategy was adopted by consensus among the social partners.

The Authority of Working Conditions (Autoridade para as Condições de Trabalho - ACT) produces an annual report on labour inspection activities. Taking the 2009 Report, the directive on H&S is mentioned as one of the international referentials to the labour inspection activity. Specifically regarding SMEs, the report mentions that given the characteristics of this segment (which represents about 90% of the enterprises in Portugal) a national campaign was launched, in 2009. This campaign aimed at the dissemination of information in order to raise a safety culture in SMEs. In 2010, a Risk Assessment and Prevention Development in Micro and Small Enterprises Campaign gave continuity to the previous initiative. Mention is also made in the 2009 Report on inspective activities to the large predominance of micro, small and medium enterprises in sectors such as trade and agriculture. Reference is made to the fact that trade is characterised by recurring irregular situations, in terms of recruitment, labour contracts, working time and rest periods organisation, and occupational categories and wages.

- Does its implementation in micro and small companies follow similar patterns than in medium ones?

There is no reference in the legislation or in any other document specifying differences in the implementation depending on company size.

- Is H&S the current focus of legislation or did it evolve by incorporating “well-being at work” as the basic concept?

The H&S is still the main focus of legislation. Even in the recent revision of the Labour Code (Código do Trabalho - Decree-Law 7/2009, of 12 February) there is not any reference to the concept of “well-being at work”. Nevertheless well-being at work is a basic concept and a real concern in the National Strategy for Health and Safety at Work 2008-2012 (Estratégia Nacional para a Segurança e Saúde no Trabalho 2008-2012 – Resolution of the Council of Ministers 59/2008).

- The Community strategy health and safety at work for 2007-2012 calls upon the member states to work out and implement strategies to reduce the number of industrial accidents and occupational diseases; are the SMEs specially singled out in the national strategies and cooperation between social partners underlined / foreseen / called for?

The SMEs are especially singled out in the National Strategy for Health and Safety at Work 2008-2012 (Estratégia Nacional para a Segurança e Saúde no Trabalho 2008-2012). Specific objectives and measures targeting SMEs include:

- To develop and implement public opinion sensitization campaigns, with the social partners’ involvement, which may be targeted to specific entrepreneurial segments such as micro and small companies. According to the 2009 Interim Report on the implementation of the National Strategy for Health and Safety at Work 2008-2012, the implementation of this measure is on-going. Reference can be made, as an example, to the campaign, launched with the Transports and Communications Trade Union Federation (Federação dos Sindicatos dos Transportes e Comunicações – FECTRANS), based on radio spots addressed to workers from the transports sector.

- To promote the effective implementation of the legislation on safety and health at work, especially in small companies, namely trough measures such as:

  • - In companies up to 10 employees and developing a low risk activity, the issues on the improvement of health and safety (risk assessment, prevention programme, etc.) must be included in a document adapted to the sector or to the company itself in order to establish operational measures aiming at the full integration of prevention in the productive activity. (When these micro companies operate a high risk activity, which might be the case in pyrotechnics  and diving, they must make use of external services of an authorised enterprise.)

  • - The administration of work will provide self-assessment manuals, namely to the companies mentioned above. The implementation of this measure is on-going.

  • - Publication of sectoral "implementation guides" addressed to small and micro-enterprises in particular. The implementation of this measure is foreseen to 2010.

  • - Provision of technical information on the enforcement of legislation on safety and health, particularly for medium, small and micro-enterprises and their employees, through the ACT’s website. Information addressed to migrant workers in their mother tongue will be also disseminated trough relevant public bodies. The implementation of this measure is on-going.

  • - To promote the training of young entrepreneurs on safety and health at work and safety management in SMEs. The implementation of this measure is on-going, in close co-operation with employer confederations and entrepreneurial associations.

- To deepen the role of the social partners and to involve employers and employees in the improvement of working conditions in companies, namely through:

  • - The promotion, encouragement and financial support to the training of workers nominated for the exercise of safety and health activities in order to ensure the implementation of these activities in small and micro-enterprises. Still according to the 2009 Interim Report on the implementation of the National Strategy for Health and Safety at Work 2008-2012, this measure is implemented.

The ACT’s Inspection Action Plan 2008-2010 (Plano de Acção Inspectiva 2008-2010) operationalises the National Strategy mentioned earlier, therefore also foresees specific programs for micro and small companies, namely:

  • A campaign on risk assessment and development of prevention in micro and small companies in the primary and manufacturing sector and in the tertiary sector. Sensitization and information sessions (about 100) through the media, publications, seminars, workshops and other events will be promoted, with the social partners’ involvement. As reported in the first question, this campaign is foreseen to 2010.

1. The micro-level settings: the role of H&S representatives (max 700 words)

- From what level onwards / number of employees onwards, is it legally binding to establish an H&S Committee in the companies? What’s its role and function?

Regardless of size, every company must have an internal structure that ensures the activities of first aid, fire fighting and rescue of employees in situations of imminent danger; employees must be nominated as responsible for these activities (Decree-Law 35/2004, of 29 July).

The Labour Code (Código do Trabalho) (Law 7/2009, of 12 February) requires employers to organize activities related to safety and health at work as an important dimension of prevention and reparation of at-work accidents and occupational diseases. From 2010 onwards, the reporting on the employers’ obligations, namely regarding safety and health at work, is included in the Single Report (Relatório Único).

The organization and the functioning of the safety and health activities are defined by law (Law 102/2009, of 10 September):

  • - internal services - these are obligatory in companies with more than 400 employees, whatever the activity of the company is, or in companies developing high-risk activities to which at least 30 employees are exposed; internal services are part of the company structure and depend on the employer;

  • - external services or inter-company services – companies which do not have the characteristics mentioned above may hire other entities for the provision of external services of safety and health; one worker with adequate training must be nominated by the employer to represent him/her for this purpose;

  • - employer / nominated worker in a company with up to 10 employees and whose activities are not of high risk, safety and health activities can be carried out directly by the employer or by one or more nominated employees who should be provided adequate training and necessary resources for this purpose.

Safety and health at work committees, with a paritary composition, may be created by collective bargaining instruments. This committee is composed by the elected workers’ representatives for safety and health at work and the employer or employer representatives. The number of elected workers varies according to the company size (as detailed in the next answer). The power of these committees is usually framed by the framework directive; however, in exceptional cases, foreseen by company agreement, their power may exceed the framework directive.

- From what level onwards / number of employees onwards are risk prevention representatives elected? Are they distinct representatives from H&S Committee and work councils?

The employees' representatives are elected by direct secret vote of workers, according to the principle of representation by the Hondt method. Their number depends on company size:

  • a) Companies with less than 61 employees – 1 representative

  • b) Companies with 61-150 employees – 2 representatives

  • c) Companies with 151-300 employees – 3 representatives

  • d) Companies with 301-500 employees – 4 representatives

  • e) Companies with 501-1000 employees – 5 representatives

  • f) Companies with 1001-1500 employees – 6 representatives

  • g) Companies with more than 1500 employees – 7 representatives.

In principle, the representatives for H&S Committee and work councils are distinct. However, in companies where there are no elected representatives for safety and health at work, workers may be represented for this purpose by the company’s workers’ committee.

- Does the H&S Committee deal with individual health related complaints? Does it have the right to initiate action?

Yes. The H&S Committee may deal with individual health related complaints but in most cases the complaints do not regard an individual but several employees or a group of employees. This Committee does not have the right to initiate action.

- Do regional/territorial risk prevention representatives exist, covering several small SME’s?

To our knowledge, there are not regional/territorial risk prevention representatives, covering several small SME’s.

- Is there special H&S training foreseen for OSH representatives/committees? Is it adequate in order to cope with both emerging risks and legislative and technological changes in SMEs?

At the company level, according to the Labour Code, the employer has the duty to provide adequate training in H&S to the workers as well as to the workers’ elected representatives. It is also common that the training of the workers’ elected representatives takes place by trade unions’ initiative.

As to SMEs, as mentioned earlier (see question 1) the National Strategy for Health and Safety at Work 2008-2012 (Estratégia Nacional para a Segurança e Saúde no Trabalho 2008-2012) foresees the training of young entrepreneurs on safety and health at work and safety management in SMEs. The implementation of this measure is on-going, in close co-operation with employer confederations and entrepreneurial associations.

There is no available information allowing assessing the adequacy of the training to cope with both emerging risks and legislative and technological changes in SMEs.

- In order to carry out prevention policies, does a right exist for the H&S Committee to carry out surveys, call in outside independent experts? Who finances the costs of the operations / expertise? Does this right exist also in SMEs?

There are no legal dispositions on this topic, regardless of company size. It is usually up to the H&S Committees to elaborate their own regulations. The costs of any operations / expertise are supported by the company.

- Does the H&S Committee have the right to consult the Labour Inspectorate?

The H&S Committee has the right to consult the Labour Inspectorate, for example to ask for clarification or technical support.

- Does regular reporting, annual reports exist which describe enterprises occupational diseases, assess the occupational risks at the workplace and present prevention policies? Are they submitted to the H&S Committee for discussion before publication?

Companies are legally binded to the production and delivery of the annual report of activities of the safety and health at work services. This report includes occupational diseases and at-work accidents. The legislation does not include any mention to the submission of this report to the H&S Committee for discussion before publication.

In the ACT’s Report of Activities of Health and Safety at Work, 2008 (Relatório das Actividades de Segurança e Saúde no Trabalho, 2008, there is no description of enterprises occupational diseases, nor assessment of the occupational risks at the workplace. Some preventive policies are presented, namely regarding the re-enforcement of the capacities of the trade-unions, employers associations and agricultural co-operatives, as well as the initiatives promoted under the scope of the European Week on Safety and Health at Work and as the national focal point to safety and health at work.

The Annual Reports of Activities of the Service of Safety, Hygiene and Health at Work, 2002-2007 and 2008 (Relatório Anual da Actividade do Serviço de Segurança, Higiene e Saúde no Trabalho-SHST, 2002-2007 and 2008) released by the Office of Strategy and Planning from Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity (Gabinete de Estratégia e Planeamento do Ministério do Trabalho e da Solidariedade Social - GEP), includes some information on workers’ information, training and consultation, risk prevention and accidents at work, but for all companies, not specifying enterprise size.

- Is the H&S Committee, when providing a high standard of working conditions and of occupational health and safety seen as a positive competition factor? Can the image of the companies be regarded as important in the context for winning major contracts? Do companies refer to the activities of the H&S Committee in their Annual report of activities, to the existence of day-to-day bargaining and the management of working conditions by the H&S Committee? Do and how differ the approaches between micro/small, medium and large companies?

In recent years, the development of corporate social responsibility at the national level led to the valorisation of the working conditions and occupational health and safety as important dimensions in the management processes. In terms of external communication, companies have made an effort to disseminate their good practices in this area especially as a positive competition factor, particularly in their sustainability reports. This is more common in large companies with activities in the area of construction, transports, etc., activities where health and safety issues are very important.

As an example, we may refer the National Railway Network (Rede Ferroviária Nacional – REFER). This is a large company (3.673 employees in 2008) that presents a very detailed sustainability report in the health and safety area. It describes the programme for the improvement of working conditions, includes data on training on hygiene and safety at work (such as the number of training sessions, the number of workers involved, and the information disseminated) as well as the company’s goals in this domain for the next year.

The analysis of the available sustainability reports of the micro/small, medium companies shows a more plain approach on this matter. These reports just make some reference to the improvement of working conditions and to the promotion of health and safety as a value and/or as a priority to the company. There is no reference in these reports to the activities of the H&S Committee, to the existence of day-to-day bargaining and the management of working conditions by the H&S Committee.

It should also be stressed that the existence of H&S Committes in micro, small and medium companies is nearly residual. Even in large companies, there is a low rate of election of workers’ representatives. (According to information collected by interview with Luis Nascimento Lopes, Executive Co-ordinator for Safety and Health at Work - ACT).

2. Social partners and the role of collective bargaining (max 300 words)

Please summarize specific arrangements on H&S for SMEs and SME-dominated industries, and how territorial OSH representatives could intervene at workplace.

There are not specific arrangements on H&S for SMEs and SME-dominated industries. There are no territorial OSH representatives.

What is the role of Social partners in drawing guidelines and implementing H&S and work organization intervention aimed to prevent work accidents and WRDs? What is the role of labour inspectorates, social security institutions, OSH services and national agencies in promoting local-level experiences in SMEs? Please summarize, if there exist, the extent of the cooperation between these latter and social partners.

The National Council of Health and Safety at Work (Conselho Nacional de Higiene e Segurança no Trabalho – CNHST) was recently reviewed and adjusted (by Decree-Law 121/2006, of 22 June). This adjustment proved necessary to promote a global policy of prevention and combat to work accidents and to promote the inter-relationship between the Government and social partners.

By law (Law 102/2009, of 10 September), the consultation and participation of the most representative employers and workers organisations in the promotion and evaluation, at national level, of the safety and health at work policy measures has to be ensured. Therefore, the social partners which are part of the Social Concertation Permanent Committee - Economic and Social Council (Comissão Permanente de Concertação Social – Conselho Económico e Social - CES) should take part of the National Council of Health and Safety at Work (Conselho Nacional de Higiene e Segurança no Trabalho – CNHST) and of the Consultative Council for the Promotion of Safety and Health at Work of the Authority for Working Conditions (Autoridade para as Condições do Trabalho).

The role of the Authority for Working Conditions (Autoridade para as Condições do Trabalho), as a tripartite body, is to promote the improvement of working conditions through the enforcement of labour standards in the context of private relations and the promotion of policies to prevent professional risks. It must also promote the enforcement of legislation on safety and health at work in all sectors and departments and agencies of central and local government, directly and indirectly, including public institutions in the forms of personalized services or public funds. As mentioned earlier, some specific concerns and policy measures are in place regarding SMEs, namely in terms of training and capacity building.

4. Figures, quantitative and qualitative studies. (max 800 words)

Are there specific surveys which prove that standards of working conditions, health and safety within small enterprises as compared to larger ones are significant lagging behind?

It is not easy to find relevant information comparing small enterprises with larger ones.

The Survey on the Assessment of Working Conditions and Workers 1999 (Inquérito de Avaliação das Condições de Trabalho e dos Trabalhadores 1999) does not include any data by company size.

As to the Annual Report of Activities of the Service of Safety, Hygiene and Health at Work, 2002-2007 (Relatório Anual do Serviço de Segurança, Higiene e Saúde no Trabalho-SHST, 2002-2007) released by Office of Strategy and Planning from Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity (Gabinete de Estratégia e Planeamento do Ministério do Trabalho e da Solidariedade Social - GEP) the only data processed by company size is related to the number of technical personnel in the services of H&S. Data for 2007 show that, as expected, the larger the company is, the higher the number of technical personnel in these services. (This information is no longer available in the last published report, including data for 2008.)

The Social Report 2007 (Balanço Social 2007), an annual survey conducted by the Office of Strategy and Planning from Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity (Gabinete de Estratégia e Planeamento do Ministério do Trabalho e da Solidariedade Social) is a document of obligatory delivery for all companies that have at least 100 employees. In this report, the only data that concern H&S and is presented by company size, refers to the weight of the costs with safety, hygiene and health at work on the total personnel costs. The share of these costs in companies with 100-249 is smaller (0,7%) compared with companies with 250-499 workers (0,9%). Nevertheless, this relative cost is the smallest in companies with 500 or more workers (0,6%). On the other hand, analysing the evolution of this share over time, it is also among the largest companies that there is a trend to a decrease (between 2001 and 2005) and a stabilisation from then on. There is a similar trend in companies with 100-249 and 250-499 workers: following a decrease between 2001 and 2002, there was a rise until 2005, followed by a new decrease until 2007 (a decrease which is more evident in companies with 250-499 workers).

The weight of the costs with safety, hygiene and health at work on the total personnel costs (%) by company size (2001-2007)


Source: Social Report (Balanço Social) 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 - Office of Strategy and Planning from Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity (Gabinete de Estratégia e Planeamento do Ministério do Trabalho e da Solidariedade Social).

The last report on fatal accidents at work, dating from 31 July 2009, carried out by the Authority for Working Conditions (Autoridade para as Condições do Trabalho) allows for the comparison of the number of fatal accidents in all sectors of activity and in the construction sector according to the size of the company, in the period 2005-2009. According to 2005 data, in all sectors, more fatal accidents occurred in micro-enterprises (1-9 workers) (61) and in smaller companies (10-20 and 21-50 workers) (56) compared with the larger ones (with over 50 workers) (52). The construction sector accounts for the majority of these fatal accidents: for instance, 30 fatal accidents occurred in micro-enterprises and 86 in this sector as a whole (169 in all sectors).

This trend persists in 2008 even though there was a considerable decrease in the number of fatal accidents at work: in all sectors, more fatal accidents occurred in micro-enterprises (49) and in smaller companies (16) compared with the larger ones with over 50 employees (30). The construction sector accounts for the majority of these fatal accidents: for instance, 24 fatal accidents occurred in micro-enterprises, and 59 in this sector as a whole (120 in all sectors).

Fatal accidents at work by company size – all sectors and construction (2005-2008)
Company size Year Total Construction
1 – 9 2005 61 30
2006 77 39
2007 68 34
2008 49 24
2009 21 17
10 – 20 2005 22 14
2006 21 9
2007 20 15
2008 16 8
2009 9 5
21 – 50 2005 34 15
2006 23 10
2007 32 13
2008 25 14
2009 7 0
> 50 2005 52 27
2006 36 13
2007 43 20
2008 30 13
2009 16 8

Source: Authority for Working Conditions (Autoridade para as Condições do Trabalho), Fatal accidents at work directly inquired, 31 July 2009

Do these surveys also investigate the impact of training, information and consultation over working conditions also in SMEs?

No. There is not any reference or data on the impact of training, information and consultation over working conditions, also in SMEs.

When surveys lack, are there qualitative studies investigating the impact of involvement and training on working conditions and health in SMEs?

Develop on the findings / results. Please mention / enumerate / give links.

To our knowledge, no studies have been undertaken in Portugal about the impact of involvement and training on working conditions and health in SMEs.

5. Good practices for SMEs: company/territorial level (max 200 words)

Are there well known examples for specific collective agreements in a given sector covering working conditions, H&S in particular in SME’s which go far beyond legislation? Are they exceptions or the rule? Please report at least one example at national level and at least two at territorial/company level.

Despite our efforts, it was not possible to identify any relevant examples for specific collective agreements in a given sector covering working conditions, H&S in particular in SME’s which go far beyond legislation.

Therefore, the example provided below refers to a large multinational company with several establishments all over the country: the Portuguese Company of Hypermarkets Auchan (Companhia de Hipermercados Portuguesa – Auchan). Auchan is a group of 29 supermarkets and hypermarkets that employ about 8.000 workers.

The good practices of this company have been developed in close collaboration with the Commerce, Offices and Services of Portugal trade union (Sindicato dos Trabalhadores do Comércio, Escritórios e Serviços de Portugal – CESP), being translated namely in:

  • - Partnership in the process of election of the representatives to the H&S Committee;

  • -Partnership for the provision of training to the workers representatives to the H&S Committee administered by the training institute of the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers – National Inter-Trade Union (Confederação Geral dos Trabalhadores Portugueses – Intersindical Nacional). This includes 48 hours training during working hours;

  • Specific training actions, also in partnership with CESP, on "Musculoskeletal disorders" and "The preventive role of the representatives regarding accidents at work”;

  • - Partnership between Auchan, CESP and ACT regarding the company participation in the National Meeting of H&S Committees, as an example of good practice based on social dialogue.

Mention should also be made to the Prevention Programme (Programa Prevenir), which has been developed by the Entrepreneurial Association of Portugal (Associação Empresarial de Portugal – AEP), with the support of Eurisko, in collaboration with the authority for Working Conditions (Autoridade para as Condições de Trabalho – ACT). This Programme aims at reducing accidents at work and is specially targeted to the promotion of safety, hygiene and health at work in micro and SMEs. The following sectors were already covered by this programme: metallurgy and metal mechanics, wooden furniture, textile and clothing, and ceramics and glass.

Three SMEs involved in this Programme may be presented as examples of good practices:

  • Esmalglass Portugal - Produtos Cerâmicos ,SA. (a company of the ceramics and glass sector, with 37 workers) has improved its systems to control dust breathing, silicon in particular.

  • Epedal (a company employing 110 workers, which produces metallic components for automobile, trucks, motorcycles, trains, aeronautics, and renewable energy) has invested in the improvement of its systems of presses, weld and coating with zinc.

  • Rui Matias, Lda. (a small company with 13 workers producing wooden furniture) invests on training in order to involve the workers in the identification and assessment of risks as well as in the definition of opportunities for improvement.

Commentary

The SMEs are especially singled out in the National Strategy for Health and Safety at Work 2008-2012, which foresees some specific objectives and measures targeting micro, small and medium enterprises. These form the large majority of the entrepreneurial tissue in Portugal. The implementation of these measures is still on-going.

Few statistics, quantitative or qualitative studies allow for a comparison of the standards of working conditions, health and safety within small enterprises as compared to larger ones.

The role of social partners in the improvement of working conditions in companies is one of the policy goals in the domain of health and safety at work in Portugal. Their involvement and participation is foreseen in several bodies and national structures. At the company level, the participation of trade union representatives is more frequent in larger companies compared with SMEs.

References

Heloísa Perista and Eudelina Quintal, Centro de Estudos para a Intervenção Social (CESIS)

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