Does the health and safety service operate in every workplace?
The OHS service (occupational health and safety services) and its activities are governed by the provisions of Art. 23711 of the Labor Code and the regulation of the Council of Ministers of 2 September 1997 on the occupational health and safety service (Journal of Laws No. 109, item 704, as amended). The main task of the service is preventive activity in order to prevent occupational hazards, improve working conditions and advise the employer on health and safety. The Labor Code defines two possibilities of the OHS service: by establishing or by entrusting the performance of its tasks.
Health and Safety Service and the number of employees
Employers with more than 100 employees are required to establish a health and safety service. It is worth noting that in the case of employing from 100 to 600 employees, employers are required to create a unit (one or more) with an employee of the OHS service who may be employed on a part-time basis. In a situation where they employ more than 600 employees, at least 1 employee of the OHS service should be employed for every 600 employees.
When the enterprise employs fewer than 100 people, the tasks of the OHS service may be entrusted to an employee employed for another job (Article 23711 of the Labor Code). In some cases, the tasks of the service may be performed by the employer himself or an external specialist.
The health and safety service in the person of the employer may perform a task when:
employs up to 10 employees or
employs up to 20 employees and is classified to the group of activities for which no higher than the third risk category has been established within the meaning of the provisions on social insurance against accidents at work and occupational diseases,
has the appropriate qualifications.
The risk categories are defined in the regulation of the Minister of Labor and Social Policy on the differentiation of the interest rate for social insurance contributions for accidents at work and occupational diseases depending on occupational hazards and their consequences (Journal of Laws of 2016, item 1005).
An employer who independently performs the tasks of the OHS service must undergo training in the form of a course or seminar or meet the qualification requirements for this service.
Qualification requirements for the health and safety service
In § 4 of the ordinance on the occupational health and safety service, detailed requirements for occupational health and safety employees are specified. Employees of the OHS service are employed in specific positions and their career path is five-step. A service employee may work as: chief specialist, senior specialist, specialist, senior inspector and inspector. Employment in specific positions depends on education and work experience. The minimum requirements apply to employment as a health and safety service inspector and it is obtaining a diploma in the profession of a health and safety technician. Achieving higher positions in the OHS service is associated with seniority in the OHS service. It is worth noting that it is counted as the period of employment under an employment contract in a separate OHS unit. Education is also important, as a person who graduated from higher education has greater opportunities in the health and safety service.
In the absence of an employee or if the employer does not have the appropriate health and safety qualifications, the service may be delegated to an external health and safety specialist. It is worth remembering that in accordance with Art. 207 § 1 of the Labor Code, the employer is always responsible for the health and safety at the workplace. When hiring a health and safety specialist from outside the plant, the employer should check his qualifications as a first step. Such a specialist should have at least higher education in the field of occupational health and safety or complete postgraduate studies in this field and have at least 1 year of work experience in the OHS service. The employer is also obliged to exercise due diligence in cooperation with a specialist from outside the workplace, because when hiring employees, he cannot allow violations of health and safety regulations and transfer responsibility for them to an external specialist.
The employer is fully responsible for the health and safety at work in the company.
Scope of duties and powers of employees of the OHS service
In § 2 sec. 1 of the ordinance of September 2, 1997, there is a detailed description of the obligations that belong to the health and safety services. It is worth noting that in some industries the OHS service may have additional duties, this is the case when the workplace has the Occupational Health and Safety Commission.
It is worth remembering that employees of the occupational health and safety service have many powers that are related to their duties. Occupational health and safety employees are included in their duties, among others: conducting health and safety inspections, applying for the removal of hazards and deficiencies in the field of health and safety, applying to the employer for rewarding and punishing employees in the field of health and safety.