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

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 21 October 2010



About
Country:
Lithuania
Author:
Inga Blaziene
Institution:

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.

Formally, there is no difference in Lithuania regarding implementation of OHS regulation in different sized enterprises: all regulatory requirements and control over conformity thereto should be equally applied to all enterprises, whether large, small or medium ones. However in practice the situation is better in large companies, usually having established occupational safety and health committees, and worse in smaller enterprises, especially having less than 50 employees. The presence of risk prevention representatives is not foreseen in the Lithuanian legislation as well.

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?

In compliance with Lithuanian legislation, it is the responsibility of an employer to ensure safety and health at work. In order to ensure occupational safety and health, an employer shall appoint one or more employees (safety and health professionals) or establish in his company an occupational health and safety service, and/or conclude a contract on the delivery of occupational health and safety services with a certified natural or legal person. Where the functions of the occupational safety and health service are performed by the employer himself, he must obtain knowledge at a training establishment in accordance with a Training Programme for the Enterprise Executives Performing the Functions of Occupational Health and Safety Services.

Upon admission to work and during employment, employees should be fully informed about the organisation of occupational health and safety at the company, existing or potential occupational risks, measures available for the risk elimination or prevention as well as findings of inspections at the enterprise conducted by the State Labour Inspectorate (Valstybinė darbo inspekcija, VDI). Employees may be kept informed or consulted at meetings, sittings and/or discussions dealing with occupational health and safety issues.

The State Labour Inspectorate shall exercise control over implementation and compliance with the statutory employee safety and health requirements in companies. Activity reports of the State Labour Inspectorate are published on an annual basis (on its web site at www.vdi.lt). The reports contain detail information about occupational health and safety situations in small- and medium-sized enterprises. Unfortunately, there is no information on how is the 1989 Framework directive on H / S and in particular information / consultation practically implemented in SMEs.

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

Formally, there is no difference: all regulatory requirements and control over conformity thereto should be equally applied to all enterprises, whether large, small or medium ones. However, we can say that in reality the situation is worse in micro and small companies, as compared to medium or large ones. According to the VDI, micro companies (the number of employees from 1 to 9) and small companies (with employees from 10 to 49) account for most violations relating to the implementation of occupational health and safety legislation. Some 62% of total violations identified per year are attributed to the aforesaid companies (e.g., in 2006, 43% and 28% of total violations relating to the implementation of occupational health and safety legislation were identified in small companies and micro companies respectively; in 2007, small and micro companies accounted for 38% and 27% of total violations respectively; in 2008 – for 35% and 27% respectively).

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

At company level, efforts are taken to properly implement statutory requirements raised in the area of health and safety at work. The concept of “well-being at work” is not an aspiration in Lithuania.

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 Lithuania, the Strategy of Occupational Health and Safety for 2009-2012 and the Implementation Action Plan for 2009-2010 was approved by Resolution No 669 of 25 June 2009 of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (Lietuvos Respublikos Vyriausybė, LRV). The main purpose of these efforts is to seek a reduction in severe and fatal accidents at work, improvement of legal and organisational framework of occupational health and safety with the view to ensuring the quality of work and maintenance of the capacity for work. (Implementation measuring criteria: 25% decrease in fatal accidents at work per 100 thousand workers in 2012, as compared to 2006 (from 8.4 to 6.3); 25% decrease in severe accidents at work per 100 thousand workers in 2012, as compared to 2006 (from 17.8 to 13.4)).

The Strategy’s implementation action plan provides for measures to be applied to small and medium companies:

  • To hold free thematic seminars on occupational risk management for employers (of small and medium companies in particular);

  • To organise redaction, publishing and distribution of publication “Risk Assessment in Small Enterprises”; to place this information on VDI’s web site;

  • To organise preparation of leaflet “Employer’s Duties in Creating Safe and Health-Friendly Working Conditions in Small and Medium Enterprises” and to place this information on the VDI’s web site.

Education and studies establishments, trade unions and employer organisations, associations, undertakings, organisations, and municipal authorities are strongly recommended to take part in the implementation of the Strategy.

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?

Establishment of occupational safety and health committees is defined in Article 13 of the Law on Safety and Health at Work. The committee shall be established in those companies which employ more than 50 workers. If less than 50 workers are employed in a company, the committee may be established on the initiative of the employer or the workers’ representative, or at the proposal of more than half of the workers of the company. In the company of certain economic activity types where an occupational risk is higher, the committee may be established even if there are less than 50 workers employed. The General Regulations of Occupational Safety and Health Committees in Undertakings shall define the economic activity types in the companies of which the committees are established when more than 50 workers are employed and the economic activity types in the companies of which it is recommended to establish the committee when less than 50 workers are employed.

The Committee shall be formed on a bilateral principle, i.e., from an equal number of employer’s representatives appointed by the person representing the employer and the workers’ representatives with specific responsibility for safety and health of workers. The employer shall provide members of the Committee with equipment necessary for carrying out their responsibilities and with information.

In accordance with valid legislation, the Committee shall hold meetings to analyse and assess the safety and health status of company's workers, to consider preventive measures aimed at avoiding accidents at work and occupational diseases. The Committee shall pass resolutions on the above-mentioned issues. The resolutions shall be communicated to the head of the company (unless he is the chairman of the Committee) for his familiarisation. The Committee’s resolutions are of a recommendatory nature, except for resolutions binding to the head of the company or employer’s authorised person in relation to work suspension in the following cases:

  • the workers have not been trained in safe work;

  • in the event of a breakdown of working equipment or imminent accident;

  • work is continued upon violations of technical regulations;

  • workers are not provided with appropriate group and/or personal  protective equipment;

  • the working environment is hazardous and/or dangerous to health or life.

As establishment of the Committee is not required in small enterprises, it is usually not formed there, while the Committees established in medium and large companies usually perform functions set forth in the legislation.

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

Election of risk prevention representatives is not foreseen in the Lithuanian legislation. In companies, risk assessment is organised by employer’s representative (head of the company) or a person delegated by the employer with responsibilities for health and safety of workers (company administration’s staff member). Employees’ representatives or (at their behest) employees’ representatives for health and safety of workers shall be present in risk assessment.

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

The Committee of Occupational Safety and Health analyses the organisation and findings of obligatory medical checks of the employees, elaborates recommendations to the head of the company in relation to the implementation of preventive measures aimed at improving employees’ health and settles disputes between the employer and employee concerning risk assessments. The Committee has the right to initiate action; however, there is no information whether this right is exercised in practice and to what extent. According to experts’ evaluations’, committees in large companies supposedly are stronger, have greater influence and play more important roles. As for small companies (<50 employees), committees are rare phenomena there, and we have no grounds to comment on the peculiarities and productivity of their activities.

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

No.

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?

Newly appointed or elected committee members shall be trained, at the expense of the company, at the educational/training institutions which render services related to training in the field of occupational safety and health using dedicated programmes. Issues related to the training of committee members shall be solved by concluding collective agreements.

Workers’ representatives shall be trained, at the expense of the employer, within the company, at training seminars, relevant educational/training institutions which render services related to training in the field of safety and health at work using dedicated programmes. During the training they shall be entitled to receive average salary. Issues related to the training of workers’ representatives with specific responsibility for the safety and health of workers shall be solved at the committee and when drawing up collective agreements.

Unfortunately, we are not able to say whether the training is adequate in order to cope with both emerging risks and legislative & technological changes in SMEs, for such surveys have not been conducted in Lithuania.

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?

Hiring of the aforesaid external services/experts is not regulated by legislation. There is no information as to the existence of such practice in Lithuanian companies.

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

The Committee’s regulations do not provide for such a right. Accordingly, the Committee has the right to consult the State Labour Inspectorate as any other natural or legal person.

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 produce only annual reports (requested by the VDI on an obligatory basis) on the occupational health and safety situation in the company. The reports are discussed at the sittings of the Committee (if such is established within the company) prior to being made public.

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 general, we cannot say that the H&S Committee, when providing a high standard of working conditions and of occupational health and safety, is seen as a positive competition factor in Lithuania. Normally, the status of health and safety at work has no influence on the signing of contracts with company’s partners, clients and customers.

This factor is only important upon entering into contracts with public authorities (in the tender procedure). On 29 June 2006, the Commission of Health and Safety of the Republic of Lithuania (Lietuvos Respublikos darbuotojų saugos ir sveikatos komisija, LRDSSK) recommended the executives of state and municipal authorities and agencies, state-run and public enterprises to include in public procurement documentation a requirement for bidding companies to submit a VDI’s certificate on the status of health and safety at work and compliance with labour legislation. A positive evaluation by the VDI is considered to be an advantage of the bidding company. In addition, Article 33 § 2.4 of the Law on Public Procurement stipulates that the contracting authority may establish in the contract documents that a request or tender shall be rejected if the candidate supplier has been guilty of grave professional misconduct proven by any means which the contracting authorities can justify. The term “professional misconduct”, as used in this paragraph, is understood as violation of competition, labour, occupational health & safety, and environmental legislation.

As a rule, information on the Committee’s activities is not published in annual reports of companies. Usually only those companies that have implemented OHSAS 18000 (an international management system on occupational health and safety) report on the status of health and safety at work on in-company level, because they are bound to do so by the implemented policy of occupational health and safety management.

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.

Social dialogue is reportedly underdeveloped in Lithuania; there is no national-level collective agreement and only one valid sectoral collective agreement (but H&S issues are not addressed in it). According to different sources (Industrial relations profile, Working time in the EU and other global economies – Industrial relations in the EU and other global economies 2006–2007), some 10-20% of employees in Lithuania may be covered by enterprise-level collective agreements.

Though there have been no surveys/analyses conducted in Lithuania to explore into the content of enterprise-level collective agreements, as a rule they contain a separate section dealing with health & safety at work and defining additional employer’s obligations in the sphere of occupational health and safety.

Unfortunately, collective agreements are traditionally signed in larger companies. Therefore, social partners and collective bargaining presumably have a bigger impact on H&S in larger companies.

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 purpose of establishing the Commission of Health and Safety of the Republic of Lithuania is to attune the interests of employees and employers in the area of occupational health and safety on the basis of tripartite cooperation of social partners in Lithuania. The Commission considers reports of the State Labour Inspectorate on the status of occupational safety and compliance with labour legislation, analyses the status of occupational health and safety in Lithuanian companies and make proposals to public authorities and agencies, employer organisations, trade unions and companies on the measures and methods to improve the status of occupational health and safety. Likewise, the Commission considers the drafts of occupational health and safety improvement programmes and measures, and provide with relevant recommendations.

The State Labour Inspectorate acting at the Ministry of Social Security and Labour (Socialinės apsaugos ir darbo ministerija, SADM) is a state-run control authority consisting of the administration and 10 regional divisions. The VDI is managed by the Chief State Labour Inspector. The VDI controls the compliance with occupational health and safety requirements in companies, provides consultations to employees, employers and their representatives on the issues relating to the improvement of working conditions, disseminates relevant information in the area of occupational health and safety, and thus ensures prevention of accidents at work and occupational diseases.

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?

No. Such surveys have not been carried out in Lithuania.

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

N.a.

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

Since 2007 the State Labour Inspectorate has been holding seminars to small and medium employers, employees responsible for occupational health and safety in companies and employees’ representatives twice per year. The seminars have been held free of charge. Likewise, consulting seminars are held in the regions on a monthly basis. Participants may obtain useful information on labour law issues, information and training material (practical guides, leaflets, video, material, etc.) in the sphere of improvement of working conditions, prevention of accidents at work and occupational diseases.

Though effects of the aforesaid measures have never been analysed, basing on expert evaluations we can nonetheless say that these measures undoubtedly have a positive impact on working conditions and health in SMEs. For example, 40 seminars of this type were held in Lithuania in 2008. The seminars were attended by more than 2,000 participants representing various types of economic activities and companies of different sizes.

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

As the surveys analysing standards of working conditions, health and safety within small and/or large enterprises have never been carried out in Lithuania, only links to the VDI’s information on VDI seminars is provided below. Information on the seminars to small and medium employers, employees responsible for occupational health and safety in companies and employees’ representatives is usually published on the VDI's web site (e.g., http://www.vdi.lt/index.php?1203979992, http://www.vdi.lt/index.php?518181931, http://www.vdi.lt/index.php?2129163783, etc.). Usually only information on the dates and places of the seminars is provided on the web site.

5. Good practices for SMEs: company/territorial level

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.

Unfortunately, information of this type has not been published or analysed in Lithuania. As it was mentioned above, there are no national, territorial or sectoral collective agreements in Lithuania. Even if there are companies in Lithuania with collective agreements setting forth especially good/favourable safety and health conditions at work, such examples are not known in public space.

Inga Blaziene, Institute of Labour and Social Research

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