Rivermate | Bhutan flag


Health and Safety Standards

Explore workplace health and safety laws in Bhutan

Health and safety laws

Bhutan's health and safety laws are designed to protect the well-being of employees across various industries. The government has established foundational acts, rules, and regulations to ensure a safe working environment.

The Labour and Employment Act of Bhutan (LEAB) 2007 is the primary legislation governing health and safety. It outlines the responsibilities of employers and employees in maintaining healthy and safe work environments. The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2012 provide detailed standards and procedural guidance on health and safety matters. The Workers' Compensation Regulations 2009 address compensation mechanisms for employees or their dependents in the event of injury, illness, or death. The Bhutan Building Rules 2002 include elements relating to safety within the construction industry.

Employer Responsibilities

Bhutanese law mandates that employers undertake a range of duties to safeguard employee health and safety. These include hazard identification and control, safety policies and training, record-keeping and reporting, and first aid provisions.

Employee Rights and Responsibilities

Bhutanese workers also have rights and responsibilities under the law to contribute to a safe working environment. These include the right to refuse unsafe work, the right to information, cooperation with employers, and reporting hazards.

Specific Regulations for Certain Industries

In addition to these general laws, Bhutan might have specific regulations for certain industries with higher inherent risks. For example, the Regulation on Occupational Health and Safety for the Construction Industry, 2022 provides detailed regulations for construction work. Other regulations might exist for industries such as mining, manufacturing, or healthcare.

Enforcement and Compliance

The Department of Labour (DoL) within the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources is the key oversight body for health and safety in Bhutan. The DoL's Labour Inspectors conduct investigations and have the power to issue improvement notices or penalties for non-compliance.

Occupational health and safety

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is a crucial aspect of the working environment in Bhutan. The country's OHS system is primarily based on the Labour and Employment Act of Bhutan (LEAB) 2007 and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2012. These legal instruments ensure that employers provide safe and healthy working environments for their employees.

Key OHS Principles

Bhutanese OHS practices are centered around three core principles:

  • Hazard prevention and Risk Reduction: This involves the proactive identification and control of workplace hazards to minimize risks for workers.
  • Safety Culture: This principle focuses on creating a workplace environment where employers and employees share responsibility for maintaining safe conditions.
  • Continuous Improvement: This involves regular assessment and enhancement of OHS procedures to address evolving risks and best practices.

Responsibilities in OHS

Both employers and employees have responsibilities in maintaining OHS. Employers are required to implement OHS Regulations, provide training, establish and maintain appropriate safety equipment and procedures, and report accidents promptly. On the other hand, employees are expected to follow safety instructions, use safety equipment correctly, report unsafe conditions, and actively cooperate in OHS initiatives.

Priority OHS Areas

Bhutanese workplaces must pay particular attention to several important areas of occupational health and safety. These include physical hazards such as noise, vibration, extreme temperatures, and ergonomic risks; chemical hazards such as exposure to hazardous substances and proper handling of chemicals; biological hazards like exposure to pathogens; psychological hazards such as stress and workplace violence; and safety in the construction sector.

Bhutan's commitment to occupational health and safety is ongoing. The government collaborates with stakeholders to review and refine its OHS regulatory framework, promoting the well-being and safety of its workforce.

Workplace inspection

Workplace inspections are a fundamental part of Bhutan's strategy to enforce occupational health and safety (OHS) standards. These inspections ensure that employers are adhering to the standards set by the Labour and Employment Act of Bhutan (2007) and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (2012).

Role of Workplace Inspections

Workplace inspections serve several purposes:

  • Verification of Compliance: Inspections are used to determine if workplaces are adhering to the required OHS standards and regulations.
  • Hazard Identification: Inspections help in proactively identifying potential risks and unsafe conditions before they can cause harm.
  • Awareness and Education: Inspections provide an opportunity to educate employers and workers about best OHS practices, thereby promoting improvements in safety culture over the long term.

Inspection Procedures

The inspection process typically involves the following steps:

  1. Planning and Preparation: Inspectors from the Department of Labour gather information about the workplace, such as the industry, size, and potential hazards, to inform the inspection plan.
  2. Opening Meeting: The inspection begins with a meeting with the employer or their representative to outline the objectives, scope, and process of the inspection.
  3. Walkthrough and Assessment: Inspectors conduct a thorough walkthrough of the workplace, observing work processes, examining machinery, and interviewing workers. They assess compliance in various OHS areas, including hazard control, use of personal protective equipment (PPE), emergency preparedness, and record keeping.
  4. Closing Meeting: After the inspection, the inspectors summarize their findings, discuss areas of non-compliance, and recommend corrective actions.
  5. Report and Follow-up: The inspectors generate a comprehensive inspection report. Employers are typically given a timeframe to address any violations. Follow-up inspections may be conducted to verify that corrective measures have been implemented.

Criteria and Frequency

The frequency of inspections and the criteria used to assess workplaces are determined by:

  • Risk-based approach: Industries and workplaces that are considered high-risk or have a history of incidents are generally inspected more frequently.
  • The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (2012) and other sector-specific regulations provide detailed criteria for assessing workplace conditions, equipment, and practices.

Follow-up Actions

If violations are found during an inspection, several actions may be taken:

  • Improvement Notices: These are issued to specify what needs to be corrected and by when.
  • Penalties: These can be imposed for non-compliance or repeated safety failures.
  • Work Stoppages: In cases where there is imminent danger, inspectors may order a temporary work stoppage until the hazard has been mitigated.

Workplace inspections play a crucial role in safeguarding the well-being of workers in Bhutan. By increasing the frequency of inspections, improving the training of inspectors, and collaborating with industry stakeholders, the impact of workplace inspections in promoting safe and healthy work environments across Bhutan can be further enhanced.

Workplace accidents

Workplace accidents in Bhutan are handled with clear protocols to ensure the rights of injured workers are protected and to promote improvements in workplace safety.

Reporting Requirements

Employers are required by the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (2012) to promptly report fatal accidents, serious injuries, and dangerous occurrences (even if no injuries occur) to the Department of Labour. The timeframe for reporting varies depending on the severity of the incident. For instance, fatal accidents must be reported immediately. Additionally, employers are required to maintain detailed records of all workplace accidents, including minor injuries.

Investigation Processes

Employers are initially responsible for investigating accidents that occur within their workplaces with the aim of identifying the root cause and preventing recurrence. In cases of serious accidents or where the employer's investigation is deemed inadequate, the Department of Labour may conduct its own investigation. Investigations consider factors like the events leading up to the accident, direct and indirect causes, non-compliance with safety regulations, and recommendations for corrective actions.

Compensation Claims

The Workers’ Compensation Regulations (2009) outlines the eligibility criteria for compensation in the case of workplace injury, disability, or death. Compensation may include medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, wage replacement for temporary or permanent disability, and lump sum payments to dependents in case of fatal accidents. Injured workers or their dependents file claims with the employer, who then submits them to the Department of Labor for assessment and disbursement of compensation.

Key Principles in Accident Response

Timeliness in reporting and investigation is paramount for accurately determining causes and ensuring prompt compensation for injured workers. Investigations must be meticulous to identify root causes and inform effective corrective measures. The OHS regulatory framework places a significant responsibility on employers to create safe workplaces and respond appropriately to accidents.

Rivermate | A 3d rendering of earth

Hire your employees globally with confidence

We're here to help you on your global hiring journey.