New Law on the safety and health at work

The Law on the safety and health at work (“Official Gazette of the RoS” no. 35/2023) (hereinafter: the New Law) entered into force on 7 May 2023. The New Law was adopted by the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia on 28 April 2023, symbolically on the International day of safety and health at work, while on the following day, 29 April 2023, the same was declared by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Serbia and published on the same day in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia number 35/2023.

The Law on safety and health at work (“Official Gazette of the RoS” no. 101/05, 91/15 and 113/17 – other law) (hereinafter: the Old Law) ceased to be valid on the day of the entry into force of the New Law. The Old Law, with amendments, was in force for almost 18 years, as well as the provisions of the Article 5 and Article 6 paragraph 1 of the Regulation on the safety and health at work on temporary or mobile construction sites (“Official Gazette of the RoS” no. 14/09, 95/10 and 98/18). The deleted provisions of the aforementioned regulation prescribed the requirements which the coordinator for project drafting, that is coordinator for the execution of construction works needs to fulfil, which are now regulated by the provisions of the New Law.

The transitional and final provisions of the New Law prescribe that the new bylaws are to be adopted within 18 months, which shall further regulate individual questions within the scope of safety and health at work. It is important to mention that the bylaws adopted on the basis of the Old Law shall remain in force until the adoption of new bylaws in accordance with the New Law, if the same are not contradictory to the New Law.

Also, the transitional and final provisions of the New Law also enumerate the older regulations, that is rulebooks from which the work safety measures, that is the rules related to safety at work, shall apply until the adoption of the regulations on preventive measures for safety and health at work, that is the regulations on general and specific measures of safety and health at work, if such measures, that is rules, are not contradictory to the New Law.

It is very important to emphasize that the employers are obliged to organize their business activities in accordance with the New Law within two years as from the day of entry into force of the New Law, that is the employers have been given a period of two years to harmonize their business activities with the New Law. With this regard, the recommendation to all employers would be to diligently follow the adoption of the bylaws of the basis of the New Law within the period of 18 months as from the date of entry into force of the New Law,  all with the aim of complying with all obligations which arise from the aforementioned bylaws and avoid any potential sanctions of the competent authorities.

Important novelties of the New Law are focused on the competence of the persons who perform jobs related to the safety and health at work – natural persons who perform jobs related to the safety and health at work, as well as legal entities and entrepreneurs, by in detail prescribed requirements for issuing and renewal of licenses for performing jobs related to the safety and health at work which are to be renewed each 5 years, while the request for renewal of the license must be submitted 60 days prior to the expiration of the license being renewed, at the latest. When it comes to the requirements for the issuance and renewal of the licenses, the New Law prescribes that the license may be issued to a natural person, that is renewed, if the same had not been revoked in the last 5 years and if the person has not been convicted of crimes prescribed by the New Law and if the security measures due to which he/she cannot perform jobs in the field of safety and health at work had not been imposed by a final decision.

Furthermore, the New Law, among other things, introduces the institutes of “advisor for safety and health at work”, “associate for safety and health at work”, “coordinator for safety and health at work in the project drafting phase”, “coordinator for safety and health at work in the phase of execution of construction works ” and similar, which persons, among other things, must have the appropriate license for performing jobs related to the safety and health at work, while the New Law does not recognize the institute of “person for safety and health at work”, which was prescribed by the Old Law.

In the sense of competence of persons performing jobs related to safety and health at work, the obligation of continual development of knowledge is prescribed as a requirement for the renewal of the license, as well as the obligation of the employer to provide such persons with paid leave for the continual development of knowledge, for the purpose of renewing the license.

Furthermore, the New Law introduces the terms such as work at height, work at depth and defines in detail the term of a work place with increased risk which includes work place at height, work place at depth and other work places. The term “work site” is also being introduced and it is being defined as an outdoor space in which the works according to the assessment on the regulation and execution of works are being executed. In addition, the New Law defines the terms work from home and remote work and in connection with this the duty of the employer to define conditions for safe and healthy work, as well as to define tools for work issued by the employer, to define the working process related to the execution of jobs entrusted to the employee and prescribe preventative measures for safe and healthy work, as well as the possibility for the employer to issue an act on the evaluation of risks regarding the work from home and remote work with the participation of the employee.

Alongside the already existing obligation of the employer to provide the employee with the equipment for personal protection at work, the New Law prescribes the obligation of the employer to provide the employee with personal protection equipment in proper condition and to perform training for its adequate use.

Apart from the training for the adequate use of personal protection equipment, similarly to the solution from the Old Law, the New Law puts emphasis on the training as one of the preventive measures therefore a significant number of trainings are prescribed. The employer is obliged to perform training of the employee for safe and healthy work: 1) when establishing the employment relationship and other forms of work engagement; 2) when doing the transfer to other jobs; 3) when introducing new technologies or new tools for work or a change in the equipment for work and 4) when changing the process of work. The training is being performed during working hours and the costs of the training cannot be the burden of the employee. The representative of the employees for safety and health at work also has the right to be provided with the training for the performance of the activities of the employees’ representative, which is performed immediately upon election or appointment and periodically at the latest within three years as from the day of the last training. Contrary to the solution of the Old Law, by which periodical examinations of the competency for safe and healthy work of the employees who do not work at positions with increased risk were performed within four years as from the day of the pervious examination, the New Law prescribes that periodic trainings for safe and healthy work of employees who do not work at positions with increased risk are to be undertaken within three years of the day of the previous training, while for the work places with the increased risk the solution of the Old Law was kept, that is, it still prescribes that periodic trainings for safe and healthy work are being performed at the latest within one year as from the day of the previous training.

Additional training is prescribed as well when the working process requires it, that is when the employee is faced with serious, imminent and direct danger to his/her life or health (in which case the directions or instructions may be given in oral form due to the urgency). It is specifically prescribed that it is the duty of the employer to immediately, and at the latest within 8 days, perform additional training of employees in case of severe work injury, fatal work injury or collective work injury accompanied by severe or fatal work injury, and specifically of the employees at that work place in the organizational unit where the injury took place, with the duty to inform all employees.

Regarding medical examinations, the most important novelty is the duty of the employer to instruct the employee, at their request, to the medical examination which corresponds to the risks of the work place, in regular intervals, and at the latest within 5 years of the last medical examination, whereby the costs of the medical examinations are to be borne by the employer.

The New Law extended the authorizations of the labour inspection and especially when it comes to the activities in the field of construction works. Especially important duty of the labour inspector is to forbid the work on temporary or mobile construction sites for the duration of the circumstances which lead to endangerment of the safety and health at work of the employee. The aforementioned prohibition lasts at least three days if the circumstances which lead to endangerment of the safety and health at work on a construction site are determined for the first time and it lasts at least 15 days, that is 30 days if the circumstances which lead to endangerment of the safety and health at work on a construction site are determined for the second, that is third time.

The New Law also introduces the institute “register of injuries at work”, which is in electronic form and is established and managed by the Administration for safety and health at work. It is prescribed that the data is entered into the Register by the employer, while the same contains accurate and updated data regarding the injuries at work.

Finally, the New Law mainly tightened the penal policy. A larger number of misdemeanours is prescribed compared to the number prescribed by the Old Law and the monetary fines for the misdemeanours are significantly increased. For most misdemeanours of the employer which is a legal entity the fines were before prescribed in a range between RSD 800,000 and RSD 1,000,000  and now the fines are prescribed in the range between RSD 1,500,000 and RSD 2,000,000, while for the certain number of misdemeanours for which the fines were before prescribed in the range between RSD 600,000 and RSD 800,000, the fines are now prescribed in the range between RSD 1,000,000 and RSD 1,500,000 and also the fines for the directors, that is other responsible persons of the employer, have been increased etc.

Finally, we can freely point out that the New Law strives to the idea of raising protection and safety at work to a higher level, but whether that will actually happen in practice remains to be seen in the coming period.

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