Croatia: New law on occupational health and safety
An act on health and safety in the workplace was passed by Croatia’s parliament on 30 May 2014. It establishes a new governing body and builds on the previous 1996 act, now allowing employers to use audio and video monitoring devices. The act also introduces measures to help combat stress at work.
The new 2014 act on health and safety not only encompasses new technology, but directly addresses stress-related issues (in Croatian). Health and safety at the workplace was regulated for the first time in Croatia under the 1996 Safety and Health Protection at the Workplace Act (OG 59/96). It has since been changed and amended several times (OG 114/03, 100/04, 86/08, 116/08, 75/09 and 143/12). It was introduced to comply with the measures set out in Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work. However, there have been about 50 amendments and concern grew that the act was becoming too complex, and that it was not keeping up with the development of modern techniques and technology. The government decided to act when figures showed that, despite the act, the number of workplace injuries was relatively high.
Institute for the Advancement of Safety at Work
The new act is similar in structure and principles to the 1996 act. The most important change is the establishment of the Institute for the Advancement of Safety at Work. The institute will take over some of the duties of the Croatian Institute for Health and Safety at the Workplace, which will now focus only on the health aspects of safety at work. The new institute will be responsible for monitoring and proposing measures to improve safety at work, and also for overseeing the training and certification of workers and organisations. The new institute will also be responsible for a labour inspectorate in charge of implementing regulations on occupational safety.
Regulation of monitoring devices
The new act also provides for employers using audio and video monitoring devices in a closed or open workspace. They can be used to prevent the risk of robbery, burglary, violence or theft and can monitor entrances and exits, but not washrooms or changing areas. Employers wishing to monitor employees at work must get the approval of their works council. If a works council or trade union representative does not consent, then the employer can go to an arbitration tribunal. Employers are obliged to give written notice about such surveillance to workers they are hiring.
However, there are concerns that employers will use the devices to evaluate their employees’ work or to check if company rules are being violated. The employer is not allowed to broadcast any footage recorded in this way and has to prevent unauthorised access to it (although the employer is obliged to allow access to authorised inspectors).
New regulation on stress prevention at work
The second important change in the act relates to the prevention of stress at work. It is based on the European Framework agreement on work-related stress negotiated in 2004 by the European social partners.
For the first time in Croatia, the new act introduces provisions and measures to protect workers from stress and stress-related illnesses caused by work. It sets out:
- rules to eliminate risk factors;
- training procedures;
- rules on the information and consultation of employees and their representatives.
Employers are obliged to pay special attention to:
- work organisation and working procedures (organisation of working time, the degree of employees’ independence);
- the adjustment of job requirements and worker’s skills, the workload, working conditions and environment (such as exposure of workers and employers to violent behaviour, noise, heat, cold and dangerous chemicals);
- communication (clearing up any uncertainty about what is expected of employees, jobs security or possible changes and dismissal);
- subjective factors (dealing with emotional and social pressures, feelings of helplessness, or feelings of insufficient support).
Opinions of social partners
Trade unions and the Croatian Employers’ Association participated in preparing the act. Unions welcomed the introduction of stress prevention measures, and employers welcomed the obligation for workers to support employers in preventing, eliminating or reducing stress at work.
The act seeks to raise awareness about health and safety issues, as well as prevention measures, among both employers and employees. It is a positive step forward that workers and their representatives are obliged to cooperate with the employer in order to prevent, eliminate or reduce stress at work and its adverse effects.