Occupational Health and Safety in Serbia
General Contractor Responsibilities
In Serbia, for performance of construction works (which works relate to very wide spectrum of activities, from construction of a building to works on wind turbines at the wind-parks in Serbia) participants must either undertake measures for securing the construction site, workers, equipment and machinery where concrete works will take place, or risk criminal, misdemeanour, regulatory and other penalties.
That said, the Republic of Serbia relevant legislation stipulates the following:
The Law on Planning and Construction of the Republic of Serbia
The Law on Planning and Construction of the Republic of Serbia (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 72/2009, 81/2009, 64/2010, 24/2011, 121/2012, 42/2013, 50/2013, 98/2013, 132 / 2014, 145/2014, 83/2018, 31/2019, 37/2019 and 9/2020, hereinafter: the “Law”) explicitly enumerates the obligations of the Responsible Contractor, stating, inter alia, the following:
The Responsible Contractor is obliged to:
- Provide preventive measures for safe and healthy work (Article 152, paragraph 1, item 4 of the Law; these measures will be explained in detail below in the text related to the Regulation on safety and health at work on temporary or mobile construction sites);
- Organize the construction site in a way that will provide access to the location, ensuring the smooth flow of traffic, and environmental protection during the construction process (Article 152, paragraph 8, item 2 of the Law);
- Ensures the safety of the facility, persons located on the construction site and its surroundings – neighbouring facilities and roads (Article 152, paragraph 8, item 3 of the Law);
- Secure the facilities and environment in case of interruption of works (Article 152, paragraph 8, item 7 of the Law).
The Law explicitly prescribes the above obligations as the obligations of the Responsible Contractor, without stipulating the option to transfer these obligations to the third party involved in the construction process, such as the Investor (the Customer), Chief Designer or Professional Supervision of the project.
Furthermore, regardless of the Law on Planning and Construction, the Responsible Contractor’s duty to secure the construction site, workers, equipment and machinery when construction activities are performed arises from the Law on Occupational Safety and Health of the Republic of Serbia itself, as the duty of all employers, and especially employers who organize work on high-risk jobs, to provide their employees / associates with safe and healthy working conditions, while in case of employers who perform work on construction site, this Law prescribes additional, special duties in that domain, which will be discussed in detail in the continuation of this article.
The Law on Occupational Safety and Health of the Republic of Serbia
The Law on Occupational Safety and Health of the Republic of Serbia (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 101/2005, 91/2015 and 113/2017, hereinafter: the “Law“) provides obligations in the field of safety and health at work, which must be complied with by all employers (i.e. any person who has employees or professionally engages third parties as associates), especially the ones who have, inter alia, jobs with increased risk.
Which are the jobs with increased risk at a particular employer and which measures must be taken in a particular case to protect the lives and health of employees in those jobs are matters regulated by the Employer’s Risk Assessment Act (Article 13 of the Law).
Bearing in mind that many contractors operating in Serbia are not only employers with high-risk jobs, and, therefore, must comply with general duties in the field of protection of life and health at work, but also employers who, as Responsible Contractors, perform work on the construction site, they must comply with the special duties prescribed by the Law regarding health and safety measures for securing the construction site as well.
In this regard, the general duties of General Contractors and their special duties provided by the Law are listed further below.
Namely, the GENERAL DUTIES of each employer in the field of protection of life and health of employees are:
- to provide the employee with work at the workplace and in the work environment in which safety and health measures at work have been implemented (Article 9 of the Law);
- to provide preventive measures for protection of life and health of employees and to provide necessary financial resources for their application (Article 11 of the Law). These measures should be provided in the following cases: during the organization of work process, before the employee’s beginning of work, during work, as well as at any change of technological procedure at the employer;
- to appoint, by its own written decision, the person for safety and health at work, who has at least higher education in basic academic studies in the amount of at least 180 ECTS points, basic vocational studies, or studies lasting up to three years from scientific or professional areas within the educational-scientific field of technical-technological sciences, natural-mathematical sciences or medical sciences (Article 15 and Article 37a of the Law).
And the person in charge for safety and health at work performs tasks in the field of protection of safety and health at work, and in particular: (i) conducts the risk assessment procedure; (ii) performs control and gives advice to the employer in planning, selection, use and maintenance of means for work, dangerous substances and means and equipment for personal protection at work; (iii) participates in equipping and arranging the workplace, in order to ensure safe and healthy working conditions; (iv) organizes preventive and periodic examinations of working environment conditions; (v) organizes preventive and periodic inspections and checks of work equipment; (vi) proposes measures to improve working conditions, especially in the workplace with increased risk; (vii) monitors on daily basis and controls the application of safety and health measures at the employer; (viii) monitors the situation related to injuries at work and occupational diseases, as well as diseases related to work, participates in determining their causes and prepares reports with proposed measures for their elimination; (ix) prepares and conducts training of employees for safe and healthy work; (x) prepares instructions for safe work and controls their application; (xi) prohibits work at the workplace and/or prohibits the use of means for work in case when he/she determines the immediate danger to the employees’ life or health; (xii) cooperates and coordinates work with the occupational medicine service on all issues in the field of safety and health at work; (xiii) keeps records in the field of safety and health at work with the employer (Article 40 of the Law);
- to inform employees and their representatives about the introduction of new technologies and means of work, about the dangers of injuries and damage to health that arise from their introduction, and issues appropriate instructions for safe work in such cases;
- to train employees for safe and healthy work (Articles 27 and 28 of the Law).
By the way, training is provided when an employee is beginning his/her employment / other professional engagement, before an employee is transferred to other jobs, when the employer is introducing new technology, or new means of work, or changing work equipment, as well as when the employer is changing the work process that may cause a change in measures for safe and healthy work.
On the other hand, regular periodic checks of employees’ competence for work on jobs with increased risk shall be performed no later than one year from the day of the previous check of this competence.
The training is performed theoretically and practically, in accordance with the training program for safe and healthy work brought by the employer, the same is done during working hours, and the costs of training cannot be borne by the employee(s).
The training is primarily aimed at acquainting the employee with all types of risks at his workplace and with all specific measures for safety and health at work that are determined for the job of a specific employee by the Employer’s Risk Assessment Act.
- to enable for employees to use means and equipment for personal protection at work, prescribed by the Risk Assessment Act (Article 17 of the Law), as well as to maintain these means and equipment in good condition;
- to engage a licensed legal entity for the purpose of conducting preventive and periodic inspections and checks of work equipment, as well as preventive and periodic examinations of working environment conditions;
- to provide, on the basis of the Risk Assessment Act and Assessment of the Occupational Medicine Service, prescribed medical examinations of employees;
- to ensure the provision of first aid, as well as to train an adequate number of employees for first aid, rescue and evacuation in case of emergency;
- to stop any type of work that poses an immediate danger to the life or health of employees;
- to provide fire protection, rescue and evacuation measures.
When it comes to SPECIAL DUTIES of Responsible Contractor, i.e. employer who organizes work of its employees on the construction site, the said Law in Article 18 provides the following:
- The employer who performs works on the construction of a facility on temporary or mobile construction sites is obliged to prepare a Study on the arrangement of the construction site (serb. „Elaborat o uređenju gradilišta“, hereinafter: the “Study“), which the employer submits to the competent labour inspection along with the report on the commencement of work.
This report as well as the Study, are submitted at least 8 (eight) days before the commencement of work.
Besides, the Study contains detailed technical-technological elaboration of measures for prevention, elimination or reduction of risks, in relation to the jobs and activities that are performed during the execution of construction works.
This elaboration of measures is made in accordance with the performed risk assessment with regards to injuries and damages to health at workplaces and in the working environment on the construction site where the works are performed.
The Study contains: 1) construction site scheme, i.e. situation plan, 2) description of works, and 3) measures for safety and health at work.
For the purposes of preparation of the Study, General Contractor may hire a legal entity or entrepreneur who is licensed to perform risk assessment activities in the field of safety and health at work.
In this regard, the employer is obliged to submit to the Ministry of Labour a request for assessment of the fulfilment of the prescribed conditions in the field of safety and health at work before starting the activity;
- The employer is obliged to provide, maintain and implement measures for safety and health at work specified in the Study;
- The employer is obliged to report to the competent labor inspection the execution of works for the purpose of eliminating major breakdowns or accidents at the facility, which may jeopardize the functioning of technical-technological systems or activities. The report should be done immediately, from the breakdowns’ or accidents’ occurrence, orally and in writing.
- When two or more employers share work space (perform duties on the same construction site), they are obliged to cooperate in the application of measures for safety and health of employees, to coordinate activities related to the application of measures to eliminate the risk of injury or damage to the health of employees, as well as to inform each other and their employees and / or employees’ representatives on these risks and measures for their elimination (Article 19 of the Law).
The manner of cooperation is determined by the employers in a written agreement, which appoints a person to coordinate the implementation of joint measures to ensure the safety and health of all employees (this matter is explained in more details below, in the part related to the Coordinator for the performance of works).
- The employer is obliged to take measures to prevent access to the area of the facility or to the construction site area by persons and means of transport that have no basis to be in these areas (Article 20 of the Law).
Regulation on Safety and Health at Work on Temporary or Mobile Construction Sites
The issue of securing construction sites is regulated in more detail by the Regulation on Safety and Health at Work on Temporary or Mobile Construction Sites (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 14/2009, 95/2010 and 98/2018, hereinafter: the “Regulation“).
Temporary or mobile construction sites (hereinafter: “Construction sites“) are all Construction sites, i.e. places in the area where one or more of the following works are performed: (i) Excavation; (ii) Earthworks; (iii) Construction; (iv) Assembly and disassembly of already manufactured elements; (v) Reconstruction or equipping (vi) Adaptation; (vii) Renovation; (viii) Rehabilitation; (ix) Dismantling; (x) Demolition; (xi) Investment maintenance; (xii) Maintenance – painting and cleaning; (xiii) Drainage.
Duties of the Responsible Contractor in the field of site security in accordance with the Regulation are the following:
- The Responsible Contractor is obliged to provide a Plan of preventive measures for safety and health at work (Article 8 of the Regulation, serb. „Plan preventivnih mera bezbednosti i zdravlja na radu”, hereinafter: the “Plan“). The Plan should be prepared before the commencement of work on the construction site.
This Plan contains the following: (i) Construction site scheme, i.e. situational plan, (ii) Description of the organization and technology of works’ performance, (iii) Plan of phases and deadlines for individual works’ performance, with detailed instructions for coordinating the activities of employers and other entities, (iv) Specific measures for safe and healthy work in relation to industrial activities near the construction site, (v) Specific measures for safety and health at work for works where there is a specific risk of injury and damage to the health of employees (these works are listed in detail in Annex 2 of the Regulation and enumerated in the text below referring to the Coordinator for the performance of works). By the way, the content of this Plan is prescribed in detail in Annex 5, which is an integral part of the Regulation.
The Plan and technical documentation for the construction of the facility form the basis for the assessment of the risk of injuries and damage to health at workplaces and in the work environment on the construction site in question. Risk assessment is performed by the Responsible Contractor (who may hire a legal entity or an entrepreneur who has a license in the field of safety and health at work for these purposes). The manner and measures to eliminate the risks are an integral part of the Plan as well of the Study on the arrangement of the construction site.
If there are changes that affect the application of measures for safety and health at work on the construction site, the Responsible Contractor is obliged to ensure that changes or amendments to the Plan are made, no later than 5 (five) days before the start of work affected by these changes.
- The Responsible Contractor is obliged to apply preventive measures of safety and health at work during the execution of works on the Construction site (Article 12 of the Regulation), and in particular measures related to: (i) maintaining the orderliness and satisfactory level of cleanliness of the construction site; (ii) selecting workplace locations and ensuring the availability of those workplaces by designating traffic areas, passages, crossings, etc., for employees and work equipment; (iii) determining the conditions under which the various materials are handled; (iv) maintaining in good condition the means for work and installation and conducting preventive and periodic inspections and testing of work equipment, in order to achieve safe and healthy working conditions on the construction site; (v) planning and determining areas and locations for the storage of various materials, in particular hazardous materials; (vi) determining the conditions for the disposal of used hazardous substances; (vii) storage and disposal of waste and rubble; (viii) sync of the time required for the execution of certain types and phases of works in accordance with the progress of the execution of works on the construction site; (ix) cooperation between employers and other persons on the construction site; (x) industrial activities near the construction site.
- When two or more contractors perform or are expected to perform works on the construction site, the Responsible Contractor shall appoint one or more Coordinator(s) for the performance of works (Article 4 of the Regulation), hereinafter referred to as the “Coordinator“.
By the way, this obligation does not apply to the construction of facilities up to 300 m2, except in cases where some of the following works are performed: (i) Work where there is a special risk for employees from: burial in excavations deeper than 1 m due to landslides, collapse due to work on soft or swampy terrain or falling from a height of more than 2 m, where this risk is increased due to the very nature of the work process or the impact of the workplace environment; (ii) Work in which there is a special risk to employees due to exposure to chemical or biological agents, or in which special hazards and / or harmful effects occur, or a medical examination of employees is prescribed for the performance of such work; (iii) Work in which employees are exposed to ionizing radiation; (iv) Operation near high voltage power lines; (v) Work on the assembly or disassembly of heavy assembly units.
The Regulation also mentions some other works (for example, work in which there is a special risk for employees from drowning, work in wells, underground work and work in tunnels, work performed by divers, etc.).
And, the Coordinator can be a person who has:
- acquired high education in the relevant profession at a level equivalent to academic studies or vocational studies of at least 240 ECTS, in the field of: architecture, civil engineering, electrical and computer engineering, environmental and occupational safety, mechanical engineering or traffic engineering;
- passed the professional exam for performing the duties of the Coordinator for the performance of works; and
- has at least three years of work experience in: (1) construction work or (2) occupational safety and health work with the contractor.
But, the employee of the Responsible Contractor cannot be appointed as a Coordinator (Article 6 of the Regulation).
The Coordinator for the execution of works performs the following tasks:
- coordinates the application of preventive measures of safety and health at work in cases when: (i) technical, technological and / or organizational solutions are decided, in order to plan different elements or phases of works to be performed simultaneously or one after the other, (ii) the deadlines required for the completion of those works or phases of works are assessed;
- coordinates the implementation of planned activities in order to ensure that employers and other persons consistently apply preventive measures and specific measures from the Plan of preventive measures for safety and health at work;
- proposes to initiate the procedure of drafting amendments to the Plan of preventive measures for safety and health at work;
- organizes cooperation and mutual notification of all employers and other persons who simultaneously or one after the other perform works on the construction site, coordinates their activities regarding the implementation of measures for safety and health at work in order to prevent injuries and occupational diseases;
- ensures that all employers and other persons on the construction site are acquainted with the Plan of preventive measures for safety and health at work, as well as with its amendments or supplements;
- coordinates agreements to verify that work activities are performed properly;
- takes measures to ensure that only persons who have a permit to enter the construction site have access to the construction site;
- informs the competent labour inspection of cases when employers and other persons do not apply measures for safe and healthy work;
- visits the construction site on a daily basis;
- keeps Records of site visits.
The appointment of a Coordinator does not release the Responsible Contractor from the responsibilities which he has in relation to the performance of the above-mentioned tasks (Article 14 of the Regulation).
Responsibility for the selection of associates
The Responsible Contractor is responsible for the work of his employees, as well as for all damage that his employees cause to the Investor or any third party.
For the execution of construction / security of the construction site, the Responsible Contractor may hire, on the basis of contracts (cooperation, deed contract, etc.), other legal entities or entrepreneurs, who shall, in this case, have the status of subcontractors. The subcontractor must meet the same qualification requirements (license, etc.) as the Responsible Contractor.
In the event that the Responsible Contractor has hired subcontractors, the Responsible Contractor shall be liable to the Customer or any third party for the quality and quantity of the subcontractor’s work, as well as for compensation of all damages caused by the subcontractor in carrying out the work for which he was hired by the Responsible Contractor.
Therefore, in the event that the damage to the Investor or any third party is caused by the Responsible Contractor’s employee or his associate (subcontractor), the Responsible Contractor is responsible for the damage compensation to the injured party, while the Responsible Contractor can be reimbursed by the employee or subcontractor who caused the damage in the amount of paid compensation.
- The Law on Planning and Construction stipulates that the Responsible Contractor who performs works on the construction site is responsible for securing the construction site, workers, equipment and machinery, which primarily implies the application of preventive measures for health and safety at work.
- Moreover, the Law on Occupational Safety and Health further confirms that this is an obligation of the Main Contractor, not only as a Responsible Contractor, but also as an employer who organizes work on the construction site (i.e. jobs with increased risk), and which, like any employer, is obliged to provide healthy and safe working conditions to its employees / engaged associates, not only on the construction site, but in general.
- The key obligation of General Contractor in this domain is the application of preventive measures for safe and healthy work.
What measures will be applied in a particular case is prescribed by the Study on the arrangement of the construction site (serb. „Elaborat o uređenju gradilišta“), as stipulated per Law on Occupational Safety and Health, which the employer submits to the competent labor inspection along with the report on the beginning of work, at least 8 (eight) days before the commencement of work, as well as in the Plan of preventive measures for safety and health at work (serb. „Plan preventivnih mera bezbednosti i zdravlja na radu”), defined in the Regulation on Safety and Health at Work on Temporary or Mobile Construction Sites, which should be prepared before the commencement of work on the construction site.
- For the purposes of drafting aforementioned acts, as well as for the matter of health and safety preventive measures functioning in practice, the General Contractor may hire a legal entity or an entrepreneur who has a license in the field of safety and health at work.