Safety and Health Law
On November 1, 1996, the Law on Safety and Health at Work was published in the government's Official Gazette, which means that this Law was passed by the House of Representatives and came into effect on January 1, 1997, as provided for in the Law.
As it is well-known, passing a modern and comprehensive Law on Safety and Health at Work, which complies with ILO international conventions and recommendations and with the acquis communautaire, was a long-standing demand of SEK.
1. The main features of the Law:
The main features of this Law are:
- It unifies and modernises the Laws and Regulations on Safety at Workplaces.
- It amends and replaces a great part of the Law on Factories.
- It extends the application of the Law to all workplaces and wherever any work or activity is being carried out.
- It extends its protection to employees and contains pioneering provisions, which cover protection from hazards in all workplaces.
- It safeguards its effective implementation by giving the authority to inspectors to take immediate and drastic measures when they determine hazards for the safety of workers.
- It sets out procedures and imposes penalties, which are dissuasive for those who do not respect the Law.
2. THE PARTS OF THE LAW:
The Law is divided into 9 parts:
A. FIRST PART (Interpretation - Implementation)
The First Part contains the introductory provisions and the interpretation of the various terms used in the Law. It also determines where the Law applies and we note that it applies in all workplaces and in any other case where work is carried out even any activities for gains. So, this Law applies in all workplaces even in places that may not be considered workplaces, but where gainful work is being carried out. This Law does not apply for housekeepers, persons working on seafarer ships, the Armed Forces, the members of the Armed Forces and there where the Council of Ministers may decide on exceptions for public safety reasons.
B. SECOND PART (Appointing Institutions)
The Second Part refers to appointing the All-Cyprus Safety and Health Council and to its authorities, to the election of safety representatives, the election of Safety Committees and appointing a Safety officer.
These institutions have the same preconditions and the same appointing philosophy as they did under the 1988 Law, which was replaced with the current Law.
C. THIRD PART (Responsibilities and Obligations of the Employers and Employees)
The Third Part of the Law sets out the obligations and responsibilities of the employers and the employees to secure safety, health and well-being at work. These responsibilities are described in detail and include, among others, obligations to maintain installations, systems and working methods that are safe and hazard-free for health, the storing, use and transportation of objects and substances without danger, to provide information and training to the employees, and to provide and maintain a working environment without dangers to the health of the workers, as well as facilities and arrangements for their well-being at work.
The reference in this part of the Law to the prevention policies an employer must follow to carry out his obligations is especially important. These principles determine clearly and point out directly the way with which an employer must take preventative measures for safety and health in the workplace.
Special reference must be made to the provision of the Law that determines that the employer cannot demand from the workers to return to work where there is an immediate and serious threat to their lives and health. it is understood that the Law gives the right to the employee to refuse to carry out work that is an immediate and serious threat to his life or health.
D. FOURTH PART (Health and Well-being of workers)
The Fourth Part refers to the health and well-being of employees. It contains provisions for the cleanliness of workplaces, avoiding crowding together, maintaining sufficient ventilation and a proper temperature, sufficient and suitable lighting, drainage and proper floors made of non-permeable materials, providing sanitary facilities and cleaning facilities, providing potable water, providing proper maintenance of clothing storage and dressing rooms, providing chairs for work if the work is not adversely affected, providing first aid, providing suitable rest areas and arranging the workplace so that the special needs of disadvantaged persons may be catered for.
E. FIFTH PART (Special Provisions)
The Fifth Part of the Law contains special provisions for safety and health. These special provisions impose the presence of ways to get away and emergency exits in case of danger, and determine how these emergency exits must be, how there will be easier access to them without obstructions, and how they will be easily spotted and constantly marked.
This part also includes provisions for fire safety and imposes that there must be sufficient and suitable fire-extinguishing equipment, suitable fire-detecting systems and a fire alarm, as well as their proper maintenance and testing.
Special precautions against fire and explosions are also included in this part.
Also important are the provisions that provide for safe workplaces and access. The area around every piece of machinery must be clean and clear. Means must be provided for the protection from falls. The installations where flammable materials are manufactured or stored must be made of fire-proof materials. The stairs must have banisters and any open side must have a fence, as should all openings in the floors.
Finally, this part includes provisions for the specifications of equipment and the protection of workers in power plants and for the protection of workers from substances harmful to their health. There are also protecting provisions for the protection of hearing.
F. SIXTH PART (Issuing Regulations)
The Sixth Part refers to the right of the Council of Ministers to issue Regulations to protect the health, safety and well-being of persons at work and the right of the Minister of Labour to issue practice codes in order to provide practical guidance regarding the obligations set out in the Law.
G. SEVENTH PART (Implementation of the Law)
The seventh Part provides for the implementation of the Law and gives the Minister of Labour the authority to appoint Inspectors, a Chief-Inspector and other qualified persons to supervise the implementation of the Law. The Minister of Labour also appoints, in agreement with the Minister of Health, a Work Doctor for implementing the Law as well as Examination Doctors to carry out medical examinations.
This part of the Law provides broad authorities to the Inspectors to take action to implement the Law. Apart from the authority they have to enter any workplace and carry out investigations, receive information and give advice, the Law also gives them certain drastic authorities that are very important. These are issuing improvement notifications and forbidding notifications. The improvement notification warns any person who does not comply with the Law to comply within 14 days at the latest. The forbidding notification forbids the use of a building, installations or a workplace or the carrying out of any activities until the danger is abolished.
H. EIGHTH PART (Wrong-doings and Penalties)
The Eighth Part of the Law determines the wrong-doings, the penalties and the legal procedures. The penalties that are imposed to whoever violates the Law are a fine that does not exceed 10.000 pounds or imprisonment for a period not longer than two years or both penalties.
I. NINTH PART (Miscellaneous Provisions)
The Ninth Part contains miscellaneous provisions, such as the ad hoc authority approving the plans for certain buildings, provided they meet the specifications of this Law, transitory provisions, the date the Law comes into effect and the Laws replaced by it. As mentioned in the beginning, the Law came into effect on January 1, 1997.
The above-mentioned are only a very brief reference to the contents of the Law, which will help studying the Law further.
The SEK Legal Department is at your disposal for any relevant information regarding analysing the Law and for interpretation notes and comments.