New Law on Occupational Safety and Health Committees and Supervisors should contribute to a significant improvement of abidance with occupational safety and health rights, regulations and standards in Palestine
In April 2019, during the national conference on the occasion of the International Day for Occupational Safety and Health, the Minister of Labor officially announced the issuance of a new law that concerns employers’ obligations in the field of occupational safety and health, the Law by Decree No. 3 of the Year 2019 regarding Occupational Safety and Health Committees and Supervisors in Establishments. The adoption of this law constitutes a significant progress in improving the legislative framework for protecting workers’ health and safety, and address poor implementation levels of occupational safety and health standards and procedures in most Palestinian workplaces.
The law aims at strengthening internal control in establishments and workplaces in order to provide a healthy and safe work environment, providing occupational safety and health requirements as stipulated in applicable labor law, and reducing work accidents and injuries, and occupational diseases. The law entered into effect 30 days after its publication in the official gazette on 27/02/2019, and applies to employers and workers subject to the Labor Law in force, and establishments and their branches.
According to the law, employers will have the obligation to hire or assign specific personnel dedicated to supervising compliance with standards and regulations related to occupational safety and health in the workplace. Workers already employed in the workplace or externally hired personnel with the required qualifications can fill this new position(s). The mandatory number of occupational safety and health supervisors in each establishment shall depend on the size of the establishment and its classification as more or less hazardous. The law also defines two levels of supervisors, technical supervisors and specialized supervisors. For each of them, it identifies the educational background required and specific courses they need to have completed. Supervisors will be in charge of ensuring that occupational safety and health standards and procedures are put in place and respected, including individual and collective protection measures, investigating work accidents, injuries and occupational diseases and reporting about them on a bi-annual basis, inspecting machinery and equipment, preparing awareness and guidance materials for the workplace, providing training on occupational safety and health in the workplace, and informing the Labor Ministry of any obstacles faced.
The law also stipulates the formation of occupational safety and health committee in establishments with 40 employees and more. This constitutes a significant progress for strengthening the role of workers’ representatives, as an equal number of workers and employers’ representatives have to be included in the committee. The committee itself is to be headed by the employer or his/her representative, and the occupational safety and health supervisor shall be its secretary. The role of occupational safety and health committee will be to undertake the following tasks: strengthening cooperation between workers and employers to raise the level of occupational safety and health in the workplace, providing necessary facilities to the supervisor, so he/she can undertake his work, making sure that the supervisor undertake the tasks specified by the law, and notifying the labor ministry of any problem in this regard, elaborating occupational safety and health policies and plans, assessing the work environment and ensuring that it is adequate, investigating any information or recommendations submitted by workers or the employer regarding risks at work and what is necessary to prevent them. The committee must meet at least once a month and keep records of its meetings. It must also meet within 24 hours of a work accident or injury to identify its causes.
The law gives labor inspectors competencies to monitor its implementation. They shall make sure that occupational safety health committees have been formed and occupational safety and health supervisors have been appointed, and that they perform their respective duties. They shall undertake inspection of occupational safety and health conditions, and submit legal and technical recommendations, as well as provide information and guidance to the employer, the supervisor and the committee that contribute to the implementation of this law.
The law foresees fines of no less than a 1000 JD and no more than 3000 JD that can be imposed on an employer for contravening the dispositions of this law. These sanctions are doubled should the employer repeat the contravention or fail to take measures to abide with the law within two months from the issuance of a first fine. The law stipulated a grace period of one year from its publication for those to whom the law applies.
DWRC welcomes the issuance of this law, and will join efforts with other actors to raise awareness about the law’s content. DWRC will also continue training workers’ representatives on union’s role in occupational safety and health to enable them to fulfill their role in accordance with the law.