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Health and Safety Standards

Explore workplace health and safety laws in Argentina

Health and safety laws

In Argentina, the right to work in safe and healthy conditions is a fundamental right established by Article 14 bis of the Argentine Constitution. The primary legal framework for workplace health and safety is Law No. 24557, also known as the Occupational Risks Law (Ley de Riesgos del Trabajo - LRT). This law mandates employers to secure coverage from Occupational Risk Insurers (ART), who are responsible for prevention, workplace hazard management, and compensation in cases of occupational illnesses.

The Occupational Hygiene and Safety Law (Ley de Higiene y Seguridad en el Trabajo), Law No. 19587 and its Regulatory Decree No. 351/79, detail specific occupational health and safety requirements for employers. The Labor Contract Law (Ley de Contrato de Trabajo - LCT), Law No. 20744, includes provisions related to working conditions, working hours, and employer obligations regarding workplace health and safety.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers are required to implement a comprehensive risk prevention plan, which includes hazard identification, risk assessments, and the development and implementation of preventative measures. They are also obligated to provide workers with regular health and safety training relevant to their job tasks and associated risks. Employers must provide workers with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at no cost and ensure its proper use and maintenance. They are also responsible for providing a safe working environment, which includes adequate ventilation, lighting, sanitation, emergency procedures, and the maintenance of machinery and equipment. Employers must report occupational accidents and illnesses to the relevant Occupational Risk Insurer (ART). In some cases, employers may be required to provide specific medical surveillance programs for workers exposed to particular hazards.

Employee Rights

Employees have the right to refuse work they reasonably believe poses an imminent and serious risk to their health or safety. They also have the right to information about workplace hazards and the training to effectively perform their jobs safely. Employees have the right to participate in health and safety matters, which includes the potential for worker representation through health and safety committees or worker safety representatives.

Enforcement and Regulatory Bodies

The Superintendency of Occupational Risks (Superintendencia de Riesgos del Trabajo - SRT), an agency under the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security, oversees the implementation and enforcement of occupational health and safety legislation. Provincial labor authorities may also play a role in inspections and enforcement actions with respect to workplace safety compliance.

Additional Considerations

Certain industries may have additional health and safety regulations due to higher risks, such as construction, mining, and chemical industries. The Federal Labor Pact (Pacto Federal del Trabajo), Law No. 25212, sets out general principles for labor inspection powers at a national level. Some collective bargaining agreements may contain provisions related to health and safety that go beyond the legal minimums.

Occupational health and safety

Occupational health and safety is a critical aspect of any workplace. It involves identifying and controlling hazards, adhering to specific safety and health standards, providing occupational health services, planning for emergencies, and maintaining records.

Hierarchy of Controls

The hierarchy of controls is a widely accepted approach to managing workplace hazards. It prioritizes:

  • Elimination: Removing the hazard entirely.
  • Substitution: Replacing the hazard with a less dangerous alternative.
  • Engineering Controls: Isolating workers from hazards through physical means.
  • Administrative Controls: Modifying work procedures or schedules to reduce exposure.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Providing protective gear for workers as a last line of defense.

Specific Safety and Health Standards

Chemical Safety

Argentina has adopted the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for chemical hazard classification and labeling. Employers must ensure Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are available for hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Argentina sets Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs) for various chemicals, often aligning with international standards.

Physical Hazards

Regulations establish maximum permissible noise levels and requirements for hearing protection programs. Employers must manage risks associated with hand-arm and whole-body vibration. Workplaces must have adequate lighting levels, particularly for tasks involving fine detail or potential hazards. Employers are encouraged to address ergonomic risk factors to prevent musculoskeletal disorders.

Biological Hazards

Specific regulations govern the management of biological hazards in healthcare settings. Argentina has regulations for the handling and disposal of hazardous biological waste.

Psychosocial Hazards

The law establishes preventive measures against workplace violence and harassment. While not explicitly regulated, employers are encouraged to implement risk assessments for stress and psychosocial hazards.

Occupational Health Services

Employers may be required to provide health examinations depending on the worker's job duties and associated risks. Workplaces must have trained first aid personnel and adequate first aid supplies. Employers should work with Occupational Risk Insurers (ARTs) to facilitate the safe return to work of injured or ill workers.

Emergency Planning and Response

Employers are required to develop emergency plans addressing fire, evacuation procedures, and natural disasters. Regulations detail fire prevention measures, the provision of fire extinguishers, and evacuation procedures.

Recordkeeping and Reporting

Employers must maintain records of workplace accidents and illnesses, including relevant details of the incident, investigation, and corrective actions. Occupational accidents and illnesses need to be reported to the relevant Occupational Risk Insurer (ART) and potentially to labor authorities, depending on the severity.

Workplace inspection

Workplace inspections play a crucial role in ensuring a safe and healthy work environment. They serve as a primary mechanism for verifying compliance, identifying potential hazards, deterring non-compliance, and gathering data on workplace conditions.

Role of Workplace Inspections

  • Verification of Compliance: Inspections ensure employers are meeting the necessary requirements.
  • Identification of Hazards: They allow authorities to proactively uncover potential hazards and unsafe working conditions.
  • Deterrence: The potential for inspections acts as a deterrent for non-compliance.
  • Data Gathering: Inspections contribute to the collection of data on workplace conditions, aiding in the development of targeted prevention strategies.

Regulatory Bodies and Inspection Authority

  • Superintendency of Occupational Risks (SRT): The SRT has the primary responsibility for conducting workplace inspections.
  • Provincial Labor Authorities: In some provinces, labor authorities may also have inspection powers.
  • Occupational Risk Insurers (ARTs): ARTs may conduct inspections for specific purposes related to insurance coverage and risk assessment.

Inspection Criteria

Inspections typically focus on the following key areas:

  • Risk Prevention Plans: Evaluating the employer's risk assessments, control measures, and overall safety management system.
  • Physical Hazards: Noise, lighting, machinery safety, electrical hazards, fall protection, etc.
  • Chemical Hazards: Use, storage, labeling, and availability of Safety Data Sheets (SDSs).
  • Ergonomics: Assessment of workplace design and work processes to minimize musculoskeletal risks.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Fire safety provisions, evacuation plans, and first-aid readiness.
  • Recordkeeping: Reviewing accident and illness records and compliance with reporting requirements.

Inspection Frequency

  • High-Risk Industries: Workplaces in industries with higher inherent risks (e.g., construction, manufacturing, mining) may be subject to more frequent routine inspections.
  • Targeted Inspections: The SRT may initiate targeted inspections based on specific complaints, reported accidents, or identified risk patterns.

Inspection Procedures

  1. Notice: Employers are generally provided advance notice of an inspection, though unannounced inspections are possible.
  2. Opening Meeting: The inspector holds an opening meeting with the employer or representative to explain the inspection's scope and procedures.
  3. Walk-through Inspection: The inspector conducts a physical walk-through of the workplace, observing work practices, identifying hazards, and potentially interviewing employees.
  4. Document Review: The inspector reviews relevant documentation like risk assessments, training records, accident reports, and maintenance logs.
  5. Closing Meeting: The inspector discusses preliminary findings with the employer.
  6. Inspection Report: A formal report details any violations, corrective actions, and deadlines for compliance.

Follow-up Actions

  • Corrective Actions: Employers are given a specific timeframe to address identified violations and submit proof of corrective action.
  • Penalties: Failure to comply within the stipulated time may result in fines or, in severe cases, temporary closure of the workplace.
  • Appeals: Employers have the right to appeal inspection findings through administrative or legal channels.

Workplace accidents

Workplace accidents require immediate action, including providing first aid and medical attention to the injured worker. It's also crucial to secure the accident scene to facilitate the investigation process, where possible.

Reporting Requirements

After a workplace accident, the employer must promptly notify the relevant Occupational Risk Insurer (ART) of the incident, usually within 24-48 hours. Depending on the severity of the accident, reporting to provincial labor authorities may also be required.

Accident Investigation

The ART is primarily responsible for investigating workplace accidents to determine the cause and assess potential liability. The employer must cooperate with the investigation, providing relevant information, and facilitating access to the workplace and witnesses. Worker representatives or health and safety committees may have the right to participate in the accident investigation.

Compensation for Workplace Accidents

Argentina operates a no-fault compensation system for workplace accidents under the Occupational Risks Law. This means injured workers are generally entitled to compensation regardless of who was at fault. The types of benefits include medical treatment and rehabilitation, temporary disability benefits, permanent disability benefits, and death benefits for dependents in case of a fatal occupational accident.

Determining Compensation

Compensable injuries and illnesses are classified as 'contingencies'. Medical professionals working with the ART assess the degree of a worker's disability to determine the appropriate compensation level. Workers may challenge the ART's decisions regarding compensation through administrative or legal channels.

Recordkeeping and Prevention

Employers must maintain detailed records of workplace accidents, including details of the incident, investigation findings, and corrective actions taken. Following an accident, employers are expected to review and update their risk assessments and preventative measures to prevent similar incidents in the future.

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