University lecturer Valeriu Frunzaru, Ph. D.
Strengthening the organisation and operational capacity of workplace health and safety committees in
- research report -
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Introduction / 3
2. Workplace health and safety committee. Brief history / 4
Institutional construction and change / 4
The safety technical commission in communism / 6
The workplace health and safety committee during the transition period / 8
The workplace health and safety committee in the European Union / 9
Workplace health and safety in Romania in the Europenization context.
Sociological perspectives / 11
Conclusions on the history of workplace health and safety committees / 14
3. The statistic situation of work accidents in Romania / 16 The statistic situation of work accidents in Romania
4. The workplace health and safety committee. Case studies / 19
Metodology / 19
Outcomes / 20
5. Final considerations / 37
6. Summary of research / 42
7. On the project / 49
8. Bibliography / 51
1. Introduction 1. Introduction
Robert D. Putnam together with Robert Leonardi and Raffaella Y. Nanetti in their paper Making Democracy Work: Civic Transitions in Modern Italy (1993) raised
the issue of how democracy worked in southern Italy, which, from a culture point of view, is very different from northern Italy. If the south is dominated by a culture of mistrust in the others, paternal and personal relations, the north enjoys a high social capital, which is due, on the hand, to the trust, social solidarity and tolerance that citizens show, and, on the other hand, ‚unbiased‟, impersonal relations in institutions.
The goal of this paper is similar to that of the well-known paper mentioned above, that is find solutions to make workplace health and safety committees operate, in the Romanian culture context and given Romania‟s accession to the EU.
Workplace health and safety committees are institutions whose main goal is to prevent professional risks, respectively the protection of employees‟ health and safety.
Operating based on law 319/2006 on workplace health and safety, its enforcement norms, workplace health and safety committees imply the cooperation of employees‟
representatives in charge of employees‟ safety and the employer or his legal representatives. Together with the work safety doctor they form a group which should look into the workplace health and safety in the company and develop policies / offer solutions to comply with the law in this respect. Workplace health and safety standards in the company need to meet specific regulations on workplace health and safety and The Romanian Government Decisions on the minimum health and safety requirements issued according to Chapter 13 in the EU-accession treaty: ?Social
policy and employment”.
This paper is part of the project entitled ‚Strengthening the organisation and
operational capacity of workplace health and safety committees in Romania by rendering the activity of member thereof more efficient‟, by assessing how health and
safety committees operate and by offering solutions for improving the activity of these institutions. The paper considers, apart from the legal requirements in force, the issue of institutional building up and change given the fact that the Romanian society is becoming more and more European.
Considering these premises, the main goals of the paper are:
1. To assess workplace health and safety committees in Romania;
2. To offer solutions in order to improve the activity of workplace health and safety committees in Romania.
The secondary goals of this paper are:
1. To assess the law on the activity of workplace health and safety committees in Romania in the European context;
2. To assess the trend of work accidents and professional illnesses in Romania in economic areas and in the European context;
3. To assess how the law on the activity of workplace health and safety committees is enforced;
4. To assess the activity of workplace health and safety committees according to the law in force;
5. To offer solutions to strengthen the capacity to organise and operate of workplace health and safety committees.
In order to reach the research goals, this paper is divided into four sections. In the first section I will present o brief history of workplace health and safety committees, starting with the Communist period up to the EU accession moment. While presenting this history I will underline both the role of the European Union
(EU), and that of The International Labour Organisation (ILO) in building up these institutions. I will analyse the evolution of regulations on the workplace health and safety committee starting with the Communist period and up to Romania‟s accession to the EU. In the second part, I will present statistics related to workplace health and safety considering risk differences among economic sectors. Also, I will make comparisons between Romanian and the other EU member states using the data provided by Eurostat. In the third part of the paper I will present the results of sociologic research based on semi-structured interview in two companies operating in the oil and chemic industry. The interviews were conducted with members of the two workplace health and safety committees (both employee‟s and employers‟
representatives), with employees who are not members of these committees, respectively with heads of human resources departments and top managers of the companies involved in this research. The paper ends with a series of final considerations that will comprise conclusions and recommendations to improve the capacity to organise and operate of workplace health and safety committees in Romania.
2. The workplace health and safety committee. Brief history 2. The workplace health and safety committee. Brief history
Institutional building and change
Before briefly presenting the history of these institutions whose main goal is to promote workplace health and safety, we need to clarify some aspects related to the institutional building and change. Despite of the fact that social institutions are sine
qua non requirements for maintaining the order and good operation of society, unfortunately many of general sociology papers pay low attention to this topic (Ghiddens, 1989/2001; Boudon (coord.), 1992/2005; Schifirneţ, 2002/2004;
Mihailescu, 2003; Mihu, 2008). In the Romanian post-communist transition, specialists in sociology and polythology, but also politicians and journalist spoke about an institutional crisis, about taking over some institutional solutions from abroad, which do not fit into the Romanian background.
Therefore, we need conceptual and theoretical clarifications as regards institutional building and change. Even trying to define ‟institution‟ raises problems, despite the ease with which this term is used. The institution could be defined as objective regulations related to the important aspects of society, regulations which are necessary in order to maintain the order and continuity of social life. Starting from this definition which is the outline of the institution, some remarks are required to underline the characteristics of this basic component of society.
Firstly, the institution presupposes rules setting out individual and group behaviours, it offers interaction models between individuals and social groups for 1. Since social rules are part of culture, that means that meeting specific needs
institutions are integrated in the culture of a society, that is they should meet the norms, values, traditions and beliefs of the society‟s members. If this requirement is
not met, the institution is shape without substance, that is a rule that the society members either do not know (when, for example, the institutions is imported from outside the society), or they know but fail to enforce (when the institution
1 I do not refer to what Ervin Goffman (1061/2004) called total institutions, that is institutions regulating all the aspects of the members‟ lives, such as prisons, orphelinages, asylums or monasteries.
is ‟imported‟ or invented by some society members without considering the cultural background of that particular society). Whenever the institution is ‟alive‟, whenever
people have assimilated these behaviour rules, the institution does not only have a normative role, but one which assess, as it allows to assess and sanction behaviours opposing the institution. According to Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, ‟to say
that a segment of human activity has been institutionalised means that this segment has already been placed under social control‟ (Berger and Luckmann, 1966/2008, 82).
Secondly, the institution refers to basic aspects of the society, as stated by Allan G. Johnson (2000/1995, 192), the institution sets out rules in order to ”reach the
goals generally-acknowledged as important in a society”. Subsequently, if for a society, a regulation may take the form of an institution, for a different society, in the absence of a socially-shared opinion on the essential importance of this regulation, that institution cannot exist if the society members wish to use the „‟generally-
acknowledged goals‟. Institutions regulate whatever a society considers necessary to
Thirdly, one must underline the important role played by institutions for the stability and continuity of social life. If in a society, institutions keep changing (as happened in Romania after the fall of the Communist regime), until new institutions are built to meet the new values (those of democracy and market economy in the case of Romanian transition from Communism to Capitalism), the in-between state is characterised by confusion, uncertainty and social anxiety. Emile Durkheim, subsequent to analysing the negative effects of labour social division called this state 2, a state characterised by the anomie, that is, as results from the etimology of the word
absence of social requirements (Durkheim, 1893/2001). The fear of anomie should
not be associated with the resistance to institutional change or of new institutions, as they always need to be in agreement with the cultural changes in each society.
In the end, we need to underline the objective character of institutions. This means that institutions are not the product of some arbitrary decisions, but products of society, which, if not assimilated by individuals, are perceived as self-understood. As stated by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, ?institutions are nowadays
perceived as having their own reality, a reality with which the individual is confronted as he is with and external, coercitive fact.” (Berger and Luckmann, 1966/2008, 86).
We notice that the institution, as time passes and it is perceived as a given reality, receives the characteristics of what Emile Durkheim called ?social fact”, that is ?any
means to apply an external constraint of the individual, either in a fixed or mobile way; or which generally is the extension of a given society, having though, its own existence, independent from its individual manifestations” (Durkheim, 1895/2003, 51-
52). But, if for Durkheim social facts cannot be built but by means of other social facts (therefore not through individual actions), Berger and Luckmann explain the appearance of the institution by referring to the intersubjective relations which in time become standards by means of the language, rituals and socialisation of the new generation.
A product of human action, but also an external element to the individual, the institutions strengthens its objective character when passed on in time, from one generation to the next, in the process of education and socialising. The reason of existence comes from beyond its practical character, it comes from the traditional dimensions which lends it legitimacy, in its turn. The institution existing since‚old
times‟ seems unchangeable to the individual and self-understood. This legitimacy is
2 The ?anomy” comes from Greek and neams ‚without a norm‟.
passed on in time by inculcating the set of written and / or unwritten norms (laws) upon the new generation, which renders institutions constant and, therefore, ensures the stability and continuity of social life. As this reality becomes self-understood, knowing it becomes a form of acknowledging social order. In this respect, Berger and Luckmann state: ?as this knowledge is rendered objective as knowledge, therefore as a corpus of generally valid truths about reality, any radical deviation from the institutional order appears as a drift away from reality” (Berger and Luckmann,
1966/2008, 95). This is why, apart from the norming-value dimension, when analysing institutions we need to consider the cognitive dimension, as well.
In the end, we may conclude that institutions have the following characteristics:
a) they are regulations on the essential aspects of society;
b) they allow to assess and sanction behaviours that oppose them;
c) they are tightly connected to the norms, values, traditions and beliefs of the
d) they are objective and external to the individual;
e) they represent a form of knowledge and therefore acknowledgement of the
f) their legitimacy is built and passed on in time through the socialisation
g) their history reflects the changes of the society they belong to.
The work safety technical commission in communism
The workplace health and safety committee is not a new invention, it can be found in communism as ‚work safety technical commission‟. According to law 5 in
1965 on labour safety, labour safety in a state issue in The Social Republic of Romania. Article 8 of this law stipulates the fact that those who organise, control and run the work process are duly in charge and liable for complying with labour safety measures. Given the mutual ownership of production facilities (state monopoly capitalism), supervisors, enterprise managers, the president of the executive committee of popular councils were responsible for safety, whilst at ministry level, ministers had this responsibility. The ultimate goal was ?to ensure the best labour
conditions, to prevent labour accidents and professional illnesses” (Art. 2).
In order to train and inform employees on labour safety, The Ministry of Education had to take measures so that education plans and analytical plans of technical courses comprise special safety courses or sections. Furthermore, in order to have systematic, concrete and efficient propaganda ‚The State Committee for Culture and Art and The Radiobroadcast and Television Committee‟ had to distinctively include in their activity plans, topics on the propaganda for the prevention of labour accidents and professional illnesses” (Art. 16).
Despite these regulations, to which were added the republican norms for labour safety corresponding to law 5 of 1965, in the area of chemical industry, there 3In order to improve the situation of labour protection, were numerous accidents.
republican norms (common for the entire industry) were replaced with departmental norms of labour safety. The departmental norms for labour safety drafted by The
3 This results from an interview carried out with a subject working in the safety department of an oil company since 1982.
Ministry of Chemical Industry in 1982 included the establishment of Safety Technical Commissions. Their goal would to mobilise and use the main specialists of the units to decide upon solutions and apply measures for ensuring staff and equipment safety (The Ministry of the Chemical Industry, 1982, 36). The safety technical commission was made up of:
- the president (the unit technical manager or a personal in a similar
- the secretary (the head of the safety department);
- the members (the heads of the functional departments, production halls,
laboratories, other specialists);
- the de jure members (delegates of mass and civil organisations in the unit,
the enterprise physician, the labour inspector, etc.) (Ibidem, 36-37)
The norms stipulate that the Commission members are appointed through the decision of the unit manager, even though among the de jure members there are
representatives of civil organisations, who, theoretically, should be appointed by the employees. Another aspect worth pointing out about the commission is the fact that the number of members is not specified, and it can be some tens in the case of large companies. Furthermore, collocations like “other specialists” or ‚etc.‟ give rise to the possibility that the commission members be more numerous and be part of other departments, as well. Finally, we should underline the fact that the commission is mainly made up of people in leading positions.
The safety technical commission in collaboration with the union organisations and with the support of the local party bodies had to carry out self-control action on regular basis, preferably quarterly, subsequent to which they were to draw-up action plans to remove deficiencies detected and make sure they would be followed by a deadline (Ibidem). The commission activity would be carried out based on a yearly work plan (broken down in quarters) approved by the enterprise management, a plan which stipulated both the actions for fixing some technical problems, as well as the schedule of safety control actions.
The cooperation between the employer and employees in workplace health and safety is neither a communist, nor EU invention. The International labour Organisation Convention (OIM) on workplace health and safety of 1981 established the fact that employees or their representatives are entitled to ask and are consulted by the employer as regards all workplace health and safety legal aspects (Art. 19). The ILO recommendation of 1981 on workplace health and safety speaks about the workplace health and safety committee, in which the number of employees‟
representatives should be at least equal to that of the employer‟s. The responsibilities
of these committees are mainly common with those of the workplace health and safety set out in the Methodological norms for enforcing law 319 of 2006. Employees‟ representatives in the committee should be informed as regards workplace health and safety. Furthermore, they should be consulted whenever the management makes major decisions workplace health and safety-wise. Employees‟
representatives cannot be sanctioned for their activity, they act as committee members during work hours and benefit from training in order to fulfil these responsibilities.
The workplace health and safety committee during the transition period
?Transition” stands for all culture, politics and economy changes from the totalitarian regime to the democratic system of the state and market economy. We can date the Romanian transition between the fall of the communist regime (the end of 1989) and the EU accession moment (January, 1st 2007). The reason for deciding upon the transition end along with Romania‟s becoming a member of the EU is that
among the accession requirements there were those of the functional market economy and respecting human and minorities‟ rights.
In the area of labour safety, law 5 of 1965, with its further amendments, continued to be in force after 1990 until the labour safety law 90 of 1996 came into force. According to this law, both the employer and employee are responsible for complying with safety regulations, the former is not the state any longer, but, generally-speaking, a legal or natural person. According to law 90 of 1996, by involving employees in safety meant reducing the compulsory aspect of meeting specific norms, informing the head of department the technical breakdowns or any other situation presenting a hazard and stop work should any imminent hazards appear. We can notice that employees are no longer involved in the employer‟s process of drafting a safety policy as they are only supposed to meet the above-mentioned regulations.
If law 90 of 1996 does not refer to the employees‟ involvement in the institution decisions related to workplace health and safety, the General norms for safety associated to this law mention, among others, how the workplace health and safety committee is organised and operates (subchapter 1.1.3). Two years later, the minister of labour and social protection issued order 187 on April 15th 1998 on approving the Regulations for organising and operating the workplace health and safety committee.
According to the two documents, the workplace health and safety committee needs to be organised for all employers with a minimum of 50 employees, and if work conditions are special, the safety inspector may ask for such a committee to be set-up in companies with less than 50 employees.
The workplace health and safety committee is made up of the company general manager (or his / her representative), the head of the safety department, the representative of the medical department and the employees‟ representatives. We
must underline the fact that, if the General safety norms refer to the representatives of trade union members and of other workers, the Minister Order speaks of the employees‟ representatives, without involving trade unions in the workplace health
and safety committee. The committee is presided by the general manager (or his / her representative), and the committee secretary is the head of the safety department. It is worth underlining a possible contradiction in the minister order which specifies that, on the one hand, the employees‟ representatives will be elected for two years, and on
the other hand, the committee members are appointed by the committee chairman through a written decision, which will later be communicated to employees (Art. 5). Therefore we wonder to what extent we can really speak about the presence of employees‟ representatives in the committee.
The status of employees‟ representatives in the workplace health and safety
committee is not conditioned by undergoing training, but in companies with more than 300 employees, they will benefit from training on safety, at the expense of the employer.
The committee meet three times a year and attendance is compulsory. Apart from the responsibilities of the committee to approve the annual workplace health and safety plan, analyse risk factors, carry out their own research on labour accidents and professional illnesses etc., the committee sets up the framework in which employees are involved in the decision-making process related to changing the production process, with consequences in the safety area (The order of the minister of labour and social protection no. 187/1998, art. 7). The workplace health and safety committee will take into consideration the employees‟ proposals about preventing work accidents
and professional illnesses. We notices that the responsibilities of the workplace health and safety committee are limited to monitoring, the committees is not entitled to make suggestions for improving the workplace health and safety status.
The workplace health and safety committee in the European Union
On June 22nd 1995 Romania sent the request to become an EU member state, on February 15th 2000 accession negotiations started, and on January 1st 2007, it became an EU member. One of the first negotiations chapters to be concluded 9in 2001) was Chapter 13. Social and employment policy, in which Romania accepted the acquis communautaire, as it was in force on December 31st 1999. In subchapter 11, Workplace health and safety, it is specified the fact that prior to the accession date, Romania will enforce national laws transposing the acquis communautaire in the area of workplace health and safety. This subchapter refers to law 90 of 1996, the General safety norms, and Order 187 of 15.04.1998 of the minister of labour and social protection, which transpose (as specified by the document) the framework directive 89/391/CEE on introducing measures to promote the improvement of employees‟ safety and health on the job. According to this position document of Romania, the above-mentioned regulations introduced ‚principles which, due to the global approach to workplace health and safety, trigger the change of the employers and employees‟
mentality, who should become aware actors of the work accidents and professional illnesses prevention process”.
Only after carrying out the semi-structured interviews will we see whether these principles really led to a change of employers and employees‟ mentality about
their involvement for improving the workplace health and safety status. For the moment, I would like to highlight directive 89/391/CEE, which, in article 11, sets out the principles on the employers‟ consulting employees about workplace health and
safety-related issues. Employees are entitled to be consulted, make proposals, and have a balanced participation, according to the national law and/or practice, in discussing workplace health and safety-related issues. Moreover, ‚the employees‟
representatives with specific workplace health and safety responsibilities are entitled to request the employer to take the appropriate action and may present their proposals in order to eliminate the hazards that employees are exposed to and/or eliminate hazard sources‟. Therefore, the employees‟ representatives acquire more than a
consultative function, they may get involved in drawing-up the company‟s health and
safety policies. This activity is remunerated for, the employees‟ representatives may appeal to authorities in charge of workplace health and safety, and during inspections they may express their remarks freely.
These principles may be found in the EU strategy for the period 2007-2012 as regards workplace health and safety. According to the document drawn-up by the European Commission, 28% of the Europeaners state that they suffer from health
problems caused or aggravated by the job, whilst 35% consider that the job jeopardises their health. Also, attention is drawn to the new challenges in the area of workplace health and safety: population aging, the increase of the self-employed, 4from out-sourced activities and SME‟s or immigrant workers.
For the period 2007-2012, the Commission set out as main goal the decrease of work accidents by 25%. In order to reach this bold goal, a series of means have been proposed, among which I would like to mention: the correct implementation of the EU law (especially the law on SME‟s), promoting and developing national strategies, encouraging employers and employees to change their behaviour for a health-oriented approach, improving the means to identify potential hazards, respectively promoting health and safety at an international level. The strategy of the European Commissions focuses on the need to develop a hazard-prevention culture in general, at the society level, and in particular, at the company level by informing and organising training. In this respect, the EU strategy underlines the need for social dialog: ?Social partners are invited to draft initiatives given the context of sectorial
dialog and offer the employees‟ representatives a broader coordinating role in the management of occupational hazards.”
We notice that these principles are not found in law 90 of 1996 and are partially found in the General safety norms associated to the law, when reference is made to the workplace health and safety committee. Nevertheless, according to Romania‟s position document – chapter 13. Social and employment policy, in
Romania, in 2001 there were 9000 committees, and 8000 committee members were trained for specific actions.
In order to fully transpose the acquis communeautaire in the area of workplace health and safety, in 2006, one year before Romania‟s accession to the European Union, law 319 of July 4th 2006 on workplace health and safety was passed. Also in 2006, law 307 on fire prevention was passed and also a series of Government Decisions on the employee‟s workplace health and safety against specific hazards.
Maybe the most important novelty brought by law 319 of 2006 is that it introduces the principle of the balanced participation of the employer and employees in the workplace health and safety-related issues. Actually, article 18 in the law reiterates almost word for word, article 11 in the 89/391/CEE directive. Moreover, article 19 mentions the fact that at the ‚employer‟s level, the workplace health and
safety committees are set-up, organised and operated‟. The enforcement norms of law
319/2006, Chapter IV, include details about how workplace health and safety committees are set-up, operate and what their responsibilities are. I will briefly present only the composition and responsibilities of committees and their relationship to the employees.
Just like in the enforcement norms of law 90/1996, the enforcement norms of law 319/2006, stipulate the compulsory character of the workplace health and safety committee in companies with a minimum of 50 employees, and depending on the activity and identified hazards, the labour inspector may impose that a committee be set-up in companies with less than 50 employees. According to Art. 58, ‚the workplace health and safety committee is made up of employees‟ representatives with
specific responsibilities in the area of workplace health and safety, on the one hand, and the employer or his/her legal representatives in equal numbers as the employees‟
representatives and the safety physician, on the other hand‟. Therefore, ‚the balanced
4 Small and medium-sized enterprises