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

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 21 Deireadh Fómhair 2010


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.

There exist several shortcomings in the area of occupational safety, and health and care of working conditions at the level of micro and small companies in Slovakia. It is caused mainly by insufficient knowledge of requirements and responsibilities in the area of occupational safety and health, by low organisational representation in this area and often also by absence of social dialogue. Compared to the medium and big companies, this lower level was defined on the basis of results from surveys and checks implemented by the Labour Inspection. Measures for improvement of occupational safety and health should concentrate upon increase of employers and employees awareness, increase of economic motivation and implementation of supportive activities to help those enterprises. Improvement of occupational safety and health is one of the priorities laid down in the „The Concept (strategy) of Occupational Safety and Health in the Slovak Republic for 2008 – 2012“ adopted by the Slovak Government

Background information

The general issue

According to several studies (Walters, 2002, HSE, 2005), Health and Safety management shows significant differences between large companies and SMEs. In these latter, especially among micro-enterprises (less than 10 employees) and small ones (10-49 employees), H&S regulation is a lot of times perceived more as a burden to comply rather than a competitive opportunity because of stronger pressure over costs, company struggle for survival, lack of both financial and human resources. Further, in micro and small firms employers do not always own adequate OSH managerial skills and knowledge and they often see with suspicious the support offered by public agencies.

The extent of workers’ involvement is ambiguous: on the one hand could be easier because of direct relationship with ownership, while lower skills and shorter average tenure and the lack of OSH workplace representatives, due to legal threshold and/or non-unionization, make workers less involved in taking care of H&S on the other.

Regulatory Framework

The Health and Safety at work Framework Council Directive 89/391 introduces general prevention principles applicable to all occupational risks, aimed to ensure a higher degree of protection of workers at work through the implementation of preventive measures to guard against accidents at work and occupational diseases. The directive establishes the obligation on employers to adequately inform (art. 10) and to consult his/her employees and their representatives (art.11) by allowing them “to take part in discussions on all questions relating to safety and health at work”, thus including their right to make proposals and to a balanced participation. Finally, the directive sets an obligation on the employer to adequately train at his expenses his/her employees (art. 12) and their representatives, with regular repeals in order to take into account of technological and organizational changes and to the insurgence or changes of new risks.

The H&S at work strategy 2007-2013 stresses the importance of SMEs, high-risk sectors and subcontracting in achieving the target of a 25% cut of work accidents within 2013: in particular, SMEs are seen as more vulnerable since they have “fewer resources to put complex systems of protection in place, while some of them tend to be more affected by the negative impact of health and safety problems”.

The strategy envisages a simplification and adaptation of the existing legislation to SMEs and various forms of support in its implementation, such as dissemination of good practices, training of employees, development of simple risk assessment tools and guidelines, access to affordable and good quality prevention services, and economic incentives. Labour inspectors should play a twofold role both “as intermediaries to promote better compliance with the legislation in SMEs, primarily through education, persuasion and encouragement” and “when necessary, through coercive means”,

Member States are invited to “take steps to facilitate access to good quality prevention services” particularly in favour of SMEs, to improve health surveillance of workers while avoiding inflating the formal requirements, to incorporate into their national strategies specific measures (financial assistance, training tailored to individual needs, etc.). Further, Member States and the social partners are encouraged to promote “the practical, rapid implementation of the results of basic research by making simple preventive instruments available to enterprises and in particular to SMEs”.

The second programme of Community action in the field of health (2008–2013) and the 2008 "European Pact for Mental Health and Well-being" , together with framework agreements on work-related stress (2004) and violence, bullying and harassment at workplace (2007) show both an important shift from the original notion of H&S, as stated by the 1989 directive, towards a more general “well-being” approach, and the prominent role played by social dialogue in its advance.

Figures and trends

Eurostat figures over work accidents (2002-2006) show the highest incidence rates in medium companies (50-249 employees), while micro-entreprises (1-9 employees) show the highest rates over fatal accidents. These trends seem to depend on the impact of manufacturing, construction and transports, while in the other services industries trends are not so clear-cut. However, Eurostat figures by industry and company size are not complete in order to provide an adequate assessment over time. Further, new risks emerge and work-related diseases (WRDs) evolve from the so-called “hygienic” risk factors towards “psychosocial” ones reflecting changes in working conditions.

Similarly Eurofound 4th EWCS does not show a clear-cut relationship between work accidents, risks for health and work-related diseases with company size. When asked “Do you think your health or safety is at risk because of your work?” (question 32) and “Does your work affect your health, or not?” (question 33), respondents working in small companies (10-49 employees) report the lowest scores. However, the share of respondents not well informed on H&S (question 12) declines from 15.3% in companies with 2 to 9 employees to 11.2% in companies over 250 employees: on average, such a share tend to increase since 1995 (see the full descriptive report). Similarly, both training and involvement over organisational issues are positively correlated with company size and could display indirectly a positive effect on H&S. Composition effects with respect to age (small companies show younger population), and industry (wider proportion of SMEs in services) should be taken into account.


1. National settings and regulatory framework

- 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 Directive was transposed into the Slovak legislation by the Act No. 124/2006 Coll.

Practically, this Act covers all SMEs and in the area of employers’ obligations it defines some simplifications for SMEs, namely concerning the number of employees:

  • up to 10 employees - there is no obligation to elaborate Concept (strategy) of occupational safety and health (OSH) policy including basic intentions in this area,

  • up to 19 employees - the specific tasks in the area of OSH could be performed by employers after taking a relevant training (the employer is not obliged to employ an OSH expert),

  • up to 100 employees - there is no obligation to establish an H&S Committee.

Data on the level of OSH in SMEs are obtained from reports on results of the state Labour Inspection activities which by random selection (from the point of view of the enterprise size, their industrial activities and regional location) implement checks in SMEs.

In addition, the Institute for Labour and Family Research (Inštitút pre výskum práce a rodiny, IVPR) carried out two surveys, for analysis and assessment in the last years on:

  • situation in OSH in 120 SMEs in 2007,

  • level of collective bargaining in 39 SMEs in 2008.

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

The binding regulations refer to all companies regardless their size, however, at the level of OSH provisions there exist significant differences.

Characteristic shortcomings according to the number of employees are:

1 – 9 employees – insufficient knowledge of OSH requirements, OSH agenda is implemented by the employer himself without more detailed knowledge of legal standards and consultations with experts, attention to OSH is more or less intuitive resulting from usual experience and is based on improvisation,

10 – 49 employees – OSH level is higher, an organisational structure for OSH security is established, professional OSH agenda is secured via external services (only exceptionally executed by the employer himself – usually in an organisation with up to 15 employees),

50 – 249 employees – the OSH level can be assessed as a positive one, an OSH organisational structure and management system are developed, the agenda is executed by a qualified expert.

The findings of this survey confirm that the current legislation should be simpler and should better differentiate obligations according to the size of company and according to the type of economic activities. More information should be provided in a form of instructions, guidance and advices.

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

In Slovakia, OSH is declared as „an inseparable part of labour relations“ and is a usual trend of the basic labour law codex. Relationship of OSH and „well-being at work“ started to be effective only at the time of accession of Slovakia to EU.

- 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?

In line with the EC strategy, the Slovak Government adopted via its Ordinance No. 114/2008 „The Programme of Occupational Safety and Health in the Slovak Republic for 2008 – 2012”. One of the priorities of this Programme is to reach a higher level of active cooperation of employers and employees representative institutions and to reach cooperation of employers and employees in enterprises. Concerning improvement of OSH in SMEs, one part of the Programme concerns the provision of counselling services, creation of suitable training programmes, publishing “good practice” rules, organisation of seminars on new legislation, implementation of progressive forms of cooperation of social partners, transposition of research and development in the area of OSH into practice of SMEs, etc.

2. The micro-level settings: the role of H&S representatives

- 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?

An employer with more than 100 employees is obliged to establish an H&S Committee. The absolute majority of members of the Committee is composed of employees representatives for OSH and the rest are OSH experts. The number of committee members is not regulated and depends on the size of the enterprises – usually it varies between 6-10. The Committee is entitled to:

  • regularly assess the situation in OSH, working environment, working conditions, occupational accident rate, occupational diseases,

  • propose measures for OSH improvement,

  • express their opinion concerning all OSH issues,

  • ask information from the employer needed for execution of their activities.

According to the survey of the IVPR Návrh na zvýšenie kvality BOZP v mikropodnikoch, malých a stredných podnikoch, Záverečná správa VÚ č. 2315 2007, an active work of the Committee has a positive impact upon increase of the OSH level.

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

Employees representatives for OSH issues (there are no specially nominated risk prevention representatives) are nominated by the employer based upon a proposal of the enterprise trade unions, work councils or via election of employees (if there are no trade unions). One representative can represent from 50 up to 100 employees (according to the degree of the labour risks). If the H&S Committee is established, employees’ representatives are member of this Committee.

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

The H&S Committee deals with the situation and development in the area of occupational accidents, other accidents which happened at the work place, dangerous events, serious industrial accidents and occupational diseases. The Committee deals with individual health complaints when the claimant addresses the Committee. The Committee has the right to propose activities for improvement of the OSH situation.

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

Regional/territorial risk prevention representatives do not exist in Slovakia as their existence is not laid down in the law. In individual regions, the Labour Inspection and trade union associations provide free of charge counselling services in this area through their labour inspectors. Also IVPR provides counselling services in this area. The survey showed that in 46% of cases the Labour Inspectorates provide counselling services in the OSH area to employers, and in 79% of cases the higher trade unions provide counselling to employees’ representatives.

The Trade Union Confederation (Konfederácia odborových zväzov Slovenskej republiky, KOZ SR) – a special-interest association of small and medium business has 6 trained experts in OSH who provide counselling to their members.

The Slovak Chamber of Entrepreneurs (Slovenská živnostenská komora, SŽK) – a professional establishment with voluntary membership of subjects doing business on the basis of the Trade Licensing Act, also provides consultation and counselling services. It has its own centres in all regions (8 regions) of Slovakia.

- 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?

The employer is obliged to provide employees representatives in OSH professional training and permanent education during working hours (on the employer’s costs).

ILFR elaborated a training manual including didactical tools for training of employees’ representatives in OSH.

In the framework of the EU Leonardo da Vinci - programme WISH, the Labour Inspectorate Košice (Inšpektorát práce Košice, IP Košice) issued a handbook with the title: Primer of an Employee Representative” for OSH.

The National Labour Inspectorate (Národný inšpektorát práce) issued a „Manual for Risk Assessment in SMEs“ and a guide for „Implementation of simple OSH management systems in small enterprises“.

In Slovakia, there are not such conditions that SMEs would be able to manage the new risks and requirements resulting from technological changes alone. This is more feasible in medium sized enterprises. In order to increase the OSH level it is necessary that the relevant central authorities in cooperation with employers and employees representatives fulfil all tasks determined by the Concept (strategy) of Occupational Safety and Health in the Slovak Republic for 2008 – 2012 adopted by the Slovak Government.

- 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?

The Committee has the right to assess the situation in OSH based upon information obtained. The employees’ representatives for OSH, which represent at least one half of its members, have the right to carry out checks in OSH. The survey showed that in 87% of companies this right is used by the employees’ representatives for OSH. They can ask external experts to help them; this is on the costs of the employer but can be done only after a previous agreement with the employer. The OSH representatives in SMEs have also this right.

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

The H&S Committees have the right to consult the Labour Inspection about OSH issues. The consultations are free of charge.

- 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?

Special bodies of the employer for OSH, the so called „preventive and protection services“ are according to the Act on OSH, obliged to implement a joint check of working places, analysis of sickness leaves, occupational diseases and health risks at least once a year. As the H&S Committee is an advisory body for an employer in the area of OSH, it is assumed that the employer submits the results of the checks to the Committee for comments before publishing them. However, the Act does not impose this obligation upon the employer.

- 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?

It could be said that in those enterprises where the H&S Committee uses its rights given by the Act on OSH, this Committee is considered as a positive factor in the process of creation of the OSH level and working conditions. The overall image of a company is also created by the quality of OSH care. It is assumed that it also significantly influences the process of winning contracts.

The companies elaborate annual reports on situation in OSH including activities of the H&S Committee (when the number of employees is more than 100) and collective bargaining. The survey of IVPR Návrh na zvýšenie kvality BOZP v mikropodnikoch, malých a stredných podnikoch, Záverečná správa VÚ č. 2315 2007 showed that:

  • in 87% of enterprises, the leading role is given to a person responsible for communication with the employees representatives and in 83% the way of informing employees is defined,

  • in 69% of enterprises working conditions are also subject of regular social dialogue in OSH,

  • in 49 % of enterprises the communication is made once a month, in 21% once a week,

  • in 52% the employer takes into account the opinion of employees representatives, in other cases their opinion is subject of mutual discussion.

Different approached to OSH according to the size of enterprises are mentioned in Part 1.

3. Social partners and the role of collective bargaining

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

The basic regulation on OSH including specific amendments for SMEs is mentioned in Part 1. The methodological and training materials for SMEs are also mentioned there. For special branches of economy (building industry, metallurgical industry, food industry, agriculture, etc.), there are elaborated materials for education and training in the framework of preparation for profession. Several rules are elaborated for selected areas regardless the size of the enterprise, e.g. for manual handling of loads, work with dangerous chemical substances, use of individual protection tools, investigation of occupational accidents reasons and others.

The trade union associations have territorial (regional) OSH representatives who

  • check how the employers adhere to the OSH and working conditions requirements and how they investigate occupational accidents,

  • draw attention of the employers to shortcomings in OSH and require improvements.

What is the role of Social partners in drawing guidelines and implementing H&S and work organisation 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 summarise, if there exist, the extent of the cooperation between these latter and social partners.

Employers issue OSH rules after agreement with the employees representatives for OSH. Involvement of the H&S Committee in the organisation of work with the objective to prevent accidents and occupational diseases is mentioned in the Part 2.

Employees representatives for OSH are mainly entitled:

  • to do checks of working places,

  • to require information from the employer,

  • to submit proposals for OSH improvements,

  • to ask for elimination of shortcomings,

  • to participate in negotiations concerning OSH.

The task of the Labour Inspection is mainly:

  • to implement inspection at employers,

  • to investigate reasons of serious occupational accidents,

  • to participate in issuing building permits and starting their operations,

  • to levy penalty measures,

  • to provide free of charge counselling.

The Social Insurance Agency (Sociálna poisťovňa, SP) is the body of the obligatory insurance of an employer in case his responsibility is involved in an employee is victim of a damage caused by the occupational accident or by the occupational disease. Mainly financial benefits are paid from this insurance.

According to the Act on OSH, OSH professional services are provided by entrepreneurs certificated by the Labour Inspection do perform this activities. Those services provide counselling or directly perform OSH agenda in enterprises (including risk assessment) for money. They are used mainly by SMEs.

The National Agency for Development of SMEs (Národná agentúra pre rozvoj malého a stredného podnikania, NARMSP) is a special-interest association which is active through its regional counselling and information centres.

The SŽK and the KOZ SR are voluntary organisations supporting SMEs interests. They provide counselling, consultation, training and promotional activities. Although the area of OSH is not particularly stressed in their activities, it is included in all of their activities.

The Slovak Trade Union has a representative in the „Coordination Committee of the Slovak Republic for OSH“. This Committee is a nation-wide coordination body based upon a tripartite principle, which is in charge of social partners’ cooperation in the area of OSH.

4. Figures, quantitative and qualitative studies.

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?

Situation in adherence to the OSH standards and working conditions in SMEs is documented by the statistically processed results from the supervision implemented by the Labour Inspectorate and by the statistics of the labour accidents - see tables below.

Table1: Companies checked in 2006 – 2007
Size of the enterprise (employees) Proportional representation of employees (%) Number of enterprises in 2007 Number of executed checks v r. 2006 - 7
1 - 9 38 72,900 11,350
10 - 49 14 12,900 6,450
50 - 249 20 2,900 3,440
250 and more 28 630 1,290
Table 2: Shortcomings detected by the Labour Inspection according to the branch of economy
Size of the enterprise (employees) Presence of shortcomings (%) Sequence of shortcoming presence according to the branch of economy
1 – 9 41.5 Trade Manufacturing Building industry Hotels and restaurants
10 - 49 31.9 Manufacturing Trade Agriculture Building industry
50 - 249 16.9 Manufacturing Agriculture Trade Building industry
250 and more 9.7 Manufacturing Production and distribution of electricity, gas and water Trade Health care and social services
Table 3: Shortcomings detected by the Labour Inspection according to the branch of economy
Size of the enterprise (employees) Sequence of areas with presence of shortcomings
1 - 9 VTZ x) OSH management Operation buildings and objects Personal protective tools
10 - 49 VTZ OSH management Operation buildings and objects Other machines and facilities
50 - 249 VTZ Operation buildings and objects OSH management Other machines and facilities
250 and more VTZ Operation buildings and objects OSH management Special machines and facilities

VTZ x) - special technical equipment (hydraulic, lifting, electrical and gas)

Table 4: Share and (number) of fatal occupational accidents rate in individual branches according to the size of enterprises in 2000 - 2006
Size of the enterprise (employees) Sequence of branches according to accidents appearance
1 - 9 Building industry 36% (31) Transport 21% (18) Trade 16.3% (14) Manufacturing 15.1% (13) Agriculture 11.6% (10)
10 - 49 Manufacturing 22.3% (29) Building industry 20.7% (27) Transport 20.0% (26) Trade 13.5% (24) Agriculture 13.5% (24)
50 - 249 Agriculture 27.5% (43) Building industry 24.3% (38) Manufacturing 19.9% (31) Transport 19.2% (30) Trade 9.1% (14)
250 and more Manufacturing 48.2% (53) Transport 17.3% (19) Building industry 11.8% (13) Production of gas, water and electricity 11.8% (13) Agriculture 10.9% (12)
Table 5: Share and (number) of serious occupational accidents rate in individual branches according to the size of enterprises in 2000 - 2006
Size of the enterprise (employees) Sequence of branches according to accidents appearance
1 - 9 Manufacturing 29.5% (62) Building industry 27.1% (57) Trade 23.8% (50) Agriculture 10.0% (21) Transport 9.6% (20)
10 - 49 Manufacturing 34.2% (117) Building industry 31.9% (109) Trade 14.9% (51) Agriculture 10.5% (36 ) Transport 8.5% (29)
50 - 249 Manufacturing 43.4% (232) Agriculture 23.0% (123) Building industry 17.8% (95) Transport 10.1% (54) Trade 5.7% (30)
250 and more Manufacturing 63.7% (263) Transport 15.0% (62) Building industry 9.4% (39) Agriculture 6.5% (27) Production of gas, water and electricity 5.4% (22)
Table 6: Ratio (number) of other occupational accidents
Size of the enterprise (employees) Sequence of branches according to accidents appearance
1 - 9 Manufacturing 46.5% (1,791) Trade 23.3% (896) Building industry 15.2% (568) Agriculture 7.6% (291) Real estates 7.4% (277)
10 - 49 Manufacturing 45.8% (5,158) Agriculture 17.6% (1,983) Building industry 16.6% (1,869) Trade 14.1% (1,594) Transport 5.9% (639)
50 - 249 Manufacturing 50.7% (14,615) Agriculture 25.0% (7,196) Building industry 11.3% (3,272) Trade 7.1% (2,042) transport 5.9% (1,657)
250 and more Manufacturing 73% (21,332) Transport 10.2% (2,989 ) Agriculture 6.7% (2,002 ) Trade 5.8% (1,680 ) Building industry 4.3% (1,206 )

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

No information is available about this.

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

Based upon the appearance of shortcomings found out during checks made by the Labour Inspectorate and analysis of occupational accidents, it results that the increased care in the area of OSH and working conditions in SMEs and mainly in micro companies requires higher quality of information and awareness. Integrated results of surveys which would document the impact of information education upon quality of working conditions are not available. Studies and proposals were elaborated by ILFR for increasing the involvement and information education based upon those studies with the objective to improve OSH and working conditions in SMEs.

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

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.

ILFR surveys observe that the most often subject of the social dialogue (69%) is the area of working conditions and OSH. During the surveys it was not found out that any collective agreement would go above the level of valid legislation in this area.


  • HSE (2005), Obstacles preventing worker involvement in health and safety. Research Report 296.

  • Walters D. (2002), Regulating health and safety in small enterprises. PIE, Peter Lang, Brussels

  • Uplatňovanie kolektívnych pracovnoprávnych vzťahov podľa Zákonníka práce, kolektívnych zmlúv a iných dohôd uzatváraných medzi zástupcami zamestnávateľov a zamestnancov SR (Application of Industrial Relation under the Labour Code, Collective Agreements and Other Agreements between the Representatives of Employers and Employees in the Slovak Republic - Research report IVPR Bratislava 2008.

  • Návrhy na zvýšenie kvality bezpečnosti a ochrany zdravia pri práci v mikropodnikoch, malých a stredných podnikoch, Výskumná správa IVPR 2007.

  • Prieskum postojov zamestnaneckých štruktúr a inšpekčných orgánov k vytváraniu podmienok pre BOZP, Výskumná správa IVPR 2005.

Teodor Hatina, Institute for Labour and Family Research

[1] Question 28a_1 “Have you undergone: Training paid for or provided by your employer, or by yourself if you are self-employed?”; Question 28a_2: “Training paid for or provided by your employer, or by yourself if you are self-employed - number of days”; question 28b_1. “Have you undergone: Training paid for by yourself?”; question 28b_2. “Training paid for by yourself - number of days”; question 28c: “Have you undergone: On-the-job training?”; question 28d. “Have you undergone: Other forms of on-site training and learning?”

[2] Question 30b: “Over the past 12 months have you been consulted about changes in the organisation of work and / or your working conditions?”; question 30d. “Over the past 12 months have you discussed work-related problems with your boss?”

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