Labour Inspectorate report indicates increased compliance with law

According to the latest report by Austria's Labour Inspectorate, work-related illnesses increased, but accidents and violations of the law declined in 1995.

The annual report of the Labour Inspectorate (Arbeitsinspektion) for 1995, has now become available to the public after debate in parliament. The Arbeitsinspektion's activities are regulated by the 1993 Labour Inspection Act (Arbeitsinspektionsgesetz, ArbIG). This stipulates that the Labour Inspectorate has to contribute through its activities to an effective protection of employees, and especially has to watch over compliance with protective legal regulations and to inform and support employers and employees accordingly. The Labour Inspectorate has free access to all places of employment as well as housing and accommodation and welfare institutions. Exceptions are places of employment covered by other organisations - as in agriculture and forestry, mining, areas of the transport sector and public education - as well as religious buildings, private households, and offices of the territorial administration.

Inspections are generally to take place unannounced, but when they start employers must be informed, as they are entitled to participate. The Chamber of Labour (Arbeiterkammer) has the right to suggest inspections and to take part in them. The Labour Inspectorate is entitled to ask for written explanations, and to access to all relevant information. If an offence against regulations is found, an informal written request is issued to the employer to ensure compliance within a certain period. If this is unsuccessful, a report must be filed with an administrative court. This can be done immediately, without informal request, if the offence is grave. If life, health or morality are to be protected, the Labour Inspectorate must apply to the relevant authority to prescribe the necessary measures. If there is immediate danger to life or health, the Inspectorate can issue instructions itself and enforce compliance with them.

As of January 1, 1995, the control of compliance with the Aliens Employment Act (Ausländerbeschäftigungsgesetz, AuslBG) was added to the Inspectorate's duties.

According to the new report - entitled The activity of the Labour Inspectorate in 1995 ( Die Tätigkeit der Arbeitsinspektion im Jahr 1995) - at the end of 1995, there were 316 labour inspectors, unchanged over a year earlier, and 38 inspectors of aliens' employment. At the same time, there were 203,656 places of employment recorded in the Inspectorate's database, compared with 200,940 in 1994. In 1995 41,585 (1994: 43,008) of them were inspected, as were 11,218 (1994: 12,125) non-permanent places of employment, such as construction sites. These inspections covered 873,134 employees, roughly 29% of total employment. There were 94,958 complaints by inspectors, down from 112,174 in 1994. This works out as 1.8 complaints per inspection in 199,5 against 2.0 in 1994. Of these, 80,672 (1994: 94,417) concerned protective measures at work, 13,911 (1994: 17,381) concerned working time and employment violations, and 375 (1994: 376) concerned homeworking.

The Inspectorate's budget in 1995 was ATS 255.2 million, up from ATS 236.0 million in 1994. Of this, ATS 191.7 million was spent on personnel, ATS 15.0 million on legal obligations, ATS 48.2 million on expenses, and ATS 0.3 million on subsidies. Income, mostly from commissioned work, was ATS 5.3 million.

Violation of protective measures at work

Among the 80,672 violations of protective measures at work, the most important categories were the following:

  1. 7,441 cases of insufficiently secured scaffolding, ladders etc;
  2. 6,988 cases of blocked exits and the like;
  3. in 6,328 cases electrical equipment or installations were regarded unsafe;
  4. 6,182 cases of insufficient fire protection;
  5. 5,078 cases of insufficient preparedness for first aid;
  6. in 3,392 cases protective clothing was required;
  7. in 2,679 cases regulations were not posted;
  8. in 2,374 cases lockers or dressing rooms were found wanting;
  9. in 2,170 cases toilets, washing facilities or drinking water taps were objected to; and
  10. in 2,041 cases heating, cooling, circulation, humidity etc were criticised.

Construction accounted for 22,181 of these violations, trade and repair for 17,925, hotels and restaurants for 9,380 and metals industries for 3,755.

Employment violations

Of the 13,911 employment violations, 8,185 (1994: 10,368) concerned working time as regulated by the Working Time Act ( Arbeitszeitgesetz, AZG). To this should be added 10,234 complaints with regard to the special regulations for drivers, which are not included in the total. Furthermore, there were 575 violations of the Leisure Time Act (Arbeitsruhegesetz, ARG). Hotels and restaurants are the most important source of violations. While they contributed only 13.6% of all places of employment inspected, and only 4.9% of the employees, they accounted for 35% of the employment violations - 2,824 violations of the AZG and 199 of the ARG. The retail trade is the second most important source of violations, accounting for 2,371 breaches of the AZG and 126 of the ARG. Retail made up 36% of the places of employment inspected and 17% of the employees.

There were 3,066 violations of regulations concerning the employment of children and young people. Of these, 47% were recorded in hotels and restaurants and 20% in retailing.

In 1995, 34,506 pregnancies were reported to the Inspectorate, most of them by the employer, as required by law. There were 1,761 (1994: 1,903) cases of violation of maternity protection - 560 in retail and 405 in hotels and restaurants. There were 543 cases of employment of pregnant women after the beginning of their maternity leave, 674 cases of failing to report pregnancy, and 403 cases of night, overtime, Sunday or holiday working by pregnant women.

Illegal employment of aliens

In 1995, 11,513 permanent or non-permanent places of employment were inspected for compliance with the AuslBG. In 2,033 cases, violations were recorded, resulting in 4,210 cases of unauthorised employment. The 1994 figures, when this was not yet the Inspectorate's duty, were 8,659 places of employment inspected, 2,673 violations and 6,186 unauthorised employees. From the fact that more inspections resulted in the discovery of less violations, the report draws the conclusion that the inspections in themselves have a broadly preventive effect.

Accidents and illnesses

Accidents at work, as recorded by the Work Accident Insurance Organisation (Arbeitsunfallversicherungsanstalt, AUVA), excluding accidents on the way to or from work, declined from 144,166 in 1994 to 138,128 in 1995. Men accounted for 83% of the accidents. Fatal accidents rose slightly to 161. Over the longer term, in spite of a more than 10% increase in employment since 1985, accidents declined by about 10,000. The decline was restricted to men, while accidents involving women increased. However, regardless of gender, accidents per employee declined over the period.

Most accidents were falls (36,263), followed by accidents with machinery (19,206) and with pointed or cutting objects (18,407). A further 12,683 accidents were caused by falling or collapsing objects. Construction accounted for 33,037 of the accidents, and for 56 of the fatal ones. Trade and repair accounted for 16,927 accidents and 15 of the fatal ones, followed by the metals industries with 12,068 accidents and five fatal ones.

According to the AUVA, there were 1,308 cases of illness with a recognised link to the person's work, up from 1,233 in 1994. In 883 cases these were men, and in 425 cases women. Nearly half the illnesses among men were hearing problems because of noise, while 78% of illnesses among women were epidermic. The latter accounted for 21.5% of illnesses in men.

Commentary

Apart from the fact that illnesses and fatal accidents rose, the report paints a favourable picture. Violations of the law appear to be on the decline, and they seem to be concentrated in relatively few industries. (August Gächter, IHS)

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