Health And Safety In The Work Place

Fines up to €600,000 and prison sentences for the most serious offences

The Government has recently approved the Labour Inspection Action Plan for 2009. It insists upon safety conditions in the construction sector in view of the increasing amount of accidents – for the most part resulting in serious injuries – despite a decrease of activity in the sector.

Of the 120 million employees in the EU, approximately 10 million are victims each year to occupational accidents or sickness; roughly 8.000 accidents result in death. 

In Spain, 922.253 labour accidents occurred in 2008. 1.089 resulted in death and 8.705 resulted in very serious injuries.

The total cost for covering pensions, redundancy payments, medical assistance and physical rehabilitation is enormous. This amount is paid by the Government, employers and employees. Additionally we must take into account collateral costs due to the loss of revenue, faults or delays in products and services, extra staff salaries, official accident reports, legal fees, internal dysfunctions in the company, etc.
Fines. In Spain, new laws were introduced in 1995 and 1997 regarding safety in the workplace. Employers can either implement their own occupational risk prevention plan or hire the services of a specialized company. If a company chooses the first, it should be mindful of the following:

1. Employers with six or less employees and whose activity is considered to have a low accident risk, such as general office staff, can carry out the programme themselves provided they have the necessary training and knowledge of occupational risk prevention. Employees must have annual medical checkups.
2. An internal programme may only be overseen by an employee who has a university degree or professional training in occupational risk prevention, by an employee who has at least 30 hours training or by an employee with a minimum of 50 hours training in the case of a high risk company (i.e. companies which work with explosive materials and toxic chemicals).
3. Companies considered as having low accident risk with 500+ employees, and companies considered as having high accident risk with up to 500 employees, can have their own risk prevention department comprised of specialised staff and a medical team.

The final option is for employers to outsource their occupational risk prevention plan to a specialist company that provides these services.   

Companies that do not observe this law could face the following fines:
1. Minor Fines (between €30 and 1.502). I.e. businesses that do not advise the labour authority of an accident which has taken place in the workplace.
2. Serious Fines (between €1.502,54 and 30.050,61). I.e. a company does not carry out an Occupational Risk Prevention Plan. The fine will be given in accordance with the company’s size and risks inherent to the activity.
3. Very Serious Fines (between €30.050,62 and 601.012,10). ). I.e. an accident results in death and the company had not implemented an Occupational Risk Prevention program. In this case, the employer could even face a prison sentence.

Rafaela García
Labour Advisor
De iure Laboral