Employer organisation launches risk assessment service

The Lithuanian Business Employers’ Confederation is set to establish a professional risk assessment service,which would enable small enterprises to receive cheaper evaluation and consultancy services aimed at combating health-related risks in the workplace.

The Lithuanian Business Employers’ Confederation (Lietuvos verslo darbdaviu konfederacija, LVDK), an organisation representing small businesses in Lithuania, is in the process of establishing a professional risk assessment institution, which will allow small enterprises to be evaluated and to receive a consultation on health-related risks in the workplace. This follows the organisation’s securing of financial support from the State Social Insurance Fund Board (Valstybinio socialinio draudimo fondo valdyba, Sodra) for the prevention of accidents at work and occupational diseases.

Risk assessment in workplace

An assessment of job-related health risks is carried out in the following cases in Lithuania:

  • when new jobs are created;
  • when new regulations on safety at work and employees’ health come into force, defining stricter requirements;
  • where a technological process has been changed, or where new chemical or other hazardous substances and preparations have been introduced;
  • when an accident occurs in a company;
  • when an employee is suspected of having or is diagnosed with an occupational disease;
  • when the National Labour Inspectorate (Valstybine darbo inspekcija, VDI) establishes regulatory guidelines in the field of safety at work and employees’ health.

The Labour Code of the Republic of Lithuania states that ‘on the basis of the principles of ensuring safety and health at work, regulatory acts on safety and health at work, technical documentation of technological processes and work equipment, an employer shall: 1) assess potential risks to the safety and health of employees, and 2) complete the Occupational Safety and Health Status Card in the enterprise’. A small or medium-sized enterprise may fill in this card and assess the risk themselves. If the VDI confirms that the risk is not dangerous, then the level of risk is deemed acceptable. If the inspectorate considers that a risk does exist, then it is necessary to establish an action plan in order to minimise the risk to an acceptable level. In cases where the enterprise fails to minimise the risk, the VDI can suspend the activities of the enterprise.

According to the inspectorate, the majority of the most potentially dangerous jobs can be found in the following sectors: construction, transport, wood processing, agriculture and forestry, and electricity supply.

Service for smaller enterprises

In Lithuania, around 10 enterprises in total provide risk assessment and consultancy services for companies. However, it can be expensive for small businesses to avail of the services of a private consultancy conducting a risk assessment. Having secured financial support from Sodra, LVDK has acquired the necessary equipment and facilities, and is in the process of establishing its own risk assessment laboratory. It is expected that LVDK’s services will be provided for half the price of those of other laboratories. In addition, LVDK will be able to carry out its own risk assessment measurements in the event of disputes.

Lithuanian enterprises are eligible to receive support from Sodra for initiatives aimed at the prevention of accidents in the workplace and occupational diseases. In cases where enterprises fail to establish an appropriate action plan to avert an identified risk, LVDK is expected to advise Sodra on the need to assign funds to the enterprise concerned, so that it can develop a suitable risk prevention plan.

Support of the social partners

It appears that all of the social partners are in favour of the LVDK initiative. In March 2006, the Commission for Employees’ Health and Safety, part of the Tripartite Council of the Republic of Lithuania (Lietuvos Respublikos Trišale taryba, LRTT), expressed its approval of the draft list of preventive measures to be implemented in Lithuanian enterprises in 2006 with the support of Sodra funding. The list included LVDK’s measure aimed at establishing a professional risk assessment institution. At the meeting, all of the country’s social partners agreed that the measures listed were worthwhile and relevant in today’s workplace.

Commentary

Although there are few Lithuanian studies dealing with an objective assessment of the quality of work, in general the number of substandard or even dangerous types of jobs is quite significant. The fact that the assessment and minimisation of risk are expensive for many companies, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises, only compounds this situation. Therefore, the establishment of a facility providing cheaper and more easily accessible job assessment and consultancy services would undoubtedly be beneficial not only for businesses, but also for improving workplace safety as a whole in the country.

Inga Blažiene, Institute of Labour and Social Research

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