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Health and Safety Standards

Explore workplace health and safety laws in Colombia

Health and safety laws

Colombia has a comprehensive legal framework that governs health and safety. The aim of this framework is to protect workers from hazards, prevent injuries and illnesses, and promote a safe working environment. The key principles of this framework include employer responsibility, risk assessment, worker participation, and continuous improvement.

Key Legislation

Colombia's health and safety laws are primarily based on the following key pieces of legislation:

  • Law 9 of 1979: This is the foundational health and safety legislation, which establishes the basis for preventing workplace accidents and occupational diseases.
  • Decree 614 of 1984: This decree provides details on the organization and management of health and safety in Colombia.
  • Decree Law 1295 of 1994: This law establishes the General System of Occupational Risks, defining policies, procedures, and benefits related to health and safety.
  • Resolution 0312 of 2019: This resolution sets minimum standards for the Health and Safety Management System.


Under Colombian law, employers have a number of responsibilities related to health and safety. These include implementing the Health and Safety Management System in line with Resolution 0312 of 2019, conducting hazard identification and risk assessments, providing appropriate personal protective equipment, delivering training in safe work practices, establishing emergency response procedures, and reporting work-related accidents and diseases.

Workers also have responsibilities under the law. They are required to follow safe work practices, use personal protective equipment as directed, report hazards, accidents, and near misses, and participate in health and safety committees and training.

Health and Safety Management System

Resolution 0312 of 2019 mandates the implementation of the Health and Safety Management System for all employers. This system includes proactive identification of potential workplace hazards, implementation of control measures to eliminate or minimize risks, provision of comprehensive health and safety training to all workers, and ongoing assessment of the effectiveness of health and safety measures.

Enforcement and Penalties

The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing health and safety regulations in Colombia. Non-compliance with these regulations can result in fines, suspensions, or even closures.

Specific Regulations

In addition to the general framework, there are also sector-specific regulations for industries such as construction, mining, healthcare, and agriculture.

Key Points to Remember

Colombian health and safety laws place the primary responsibility for workplace safety on employers. The Health and Safety Management System is a core element of the legal framework. Workers have the right to participate in health and safety decision-making and to refuse unsafe work. It is essential to stay updated on the latest regulations and industry-specific standards.

Occupational health and safety

Occupational health and safety (OHS) in Colombia is managed and regulated through a comprehensive framework. The Ministry of Labor (Ministerio del Trabajo) is the main regulatory body for OHS, setting national policies, standards, and enforcement mechanisms. Law 1562 of 2012 provides a foundation for the Occupational Risk System (Sistema de Gestión de la Seguridad y Salud en el Trabajo – SG-SST), outlining employers' responsibilities to prevent workplace accidents and illnesses. Resolution 0312 of 2019 defines the minimum standards required for an effective Occupational Health and Safety Management System (SG-SST).

Key Occupational Health & Safety Standards

Colombian OHS legislation and regulatory agencies define crucial standards for employers. These include hazard identification and risk assessment, risk control measures, safe work procedures, emergency preparedness, accident and incident investigation, occupational health programs, worker training and education, and worker participation and consultation.

Responsibilities of Employers

Employers have a fundamental duty of care to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their workers. Their key responsibilities under Colombian OHS laws include developing and implementing an SG-SST, providing a safe work environment, providing information and training, providing personal protective equipment (PPE), and reporting accidents and incidents.

Worker Rights and Responsibilities

Workers have specific rights and responsibilities under Colombian OHS regulations. Their rights include the right to know about workplace hazards, the right to refuse unsafe work, the right to participate in OHS decision-making, and the right to receive OHS training. Their responsibilities include complying with OHS policies and procedures, using PPE correctly and consistently, reporting hazards and unsafe practices, and participating in OHS training programs.

Workplace inspection

Workplace inspections play a crucial role in maintaining a safe and healthy work environment. They are a proactive measure to identify potential hazards, verify compliance with safety standards, investigate incidents, and improve the overall safety culture.

Proactive Hazard Identification

Workplace inspections allow for the early detection of risks before they result in accidents or illnesses. This proactive approach helps to maintain a safe working environment and prevent potential hazards from escalating into serious issues.

Compliance Verification

Inspections ensure that workplaces adhere to the necessary safety standards. This includes checking that all equipment is in good working order, that safety procedures are being followed, and that employees are aware of and understand these procedures.

Incident Investigation

When accidents or illnesses do occur, workplace inspections can help to identify the root cause. This information can then be used to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

Safety Culture Improvement

Regular inspections reinforce the importance of safety in the workplace. They demonstrate a commitment to worker wellbeing and can help to foster a culture where safety is a priority.

Types of Workplace Inspections

There are several types of inspections that can take place in a workplace:

  • Routine Inspections: These are scheduled check-ups that assess general safety compliance.
  • Targeted Inspections: These are triggered by specific complaints, potential hazards, or high-risk industries.
  • Incident Investigations: These involve a deep analysis following accidents, illnesses, or near misses.

Who Conducts Workplace Inspections

Workplace inspections can be conducted by a variety of individuals or groups, including:

  • Government-authorized inspectors: These inspectors enforce compliance with labor regulations.
  • Internal committees: In workplaces with more than 20 employees, internal committees have the right to conduct inspections.
  • Occupational insurance companies: These companies are often involved in inspections and risk assessments.

Workplace Inspection Procedures

The process of a workplace inspection typically involves several steps:

  1. Planning: Inspectors determine the scope, focus areas, and necessary documentation for the inspection.
  2. Opening Meeting: Inspectors establish the objectives, protocols, and timelines for the inspection.
  3. Walkthrough: Inspectors observe work areas, processes, equipment, and worker behavior.
  4. Documentation Review: Inspectors analyze safety policies, procedures, training records, incident reports, and more.
  5. Closing Meeting: Inspectors summarize their findings and outline the next steps.
  6. Inspection Report: Inspectors produce a formal document listing non-compliances, recommendations, and deadlines for corrective action.

Inspection Criteria

During an inspection, a wide range of areas are evaluated, including physical hazards, ergonomics, fire and emergency preparedness, management systems, personal protective equipment (PPE), and documentation and recordkeeping.

Inspection Frequency

The frequency of inspections can vary based on the risk level of the workplace and the results of past inspections. High-risk workplaces may require more frequent inspections.

Follow-Up Actions

After an inspection, several follow-up actions may be necessary:

  • Corrective Actions: Employers must address any non-compliances within the deadlines set by the inspectors.
  • Reinspections: These may be necessary to verify that corrective actions have been taken.
  • Penalties: In cases of significant or repeated violations, fines or even workplace closure may be imposed.

Workplace accidents

In Colombia, employers are required to report workplace accidents to the relevant Occupational Risk Administrator (ARL) within two business days of the incident. This can be done electronically or directly at the ARL office. Accidents that result in death or significant impairment must be reported immediately to the Ministry of Labor.

Accident Investigation

Employers are also responsible for conducting thorough investigations into workplace accidents. This task is typically performed by the Occupational Health and Safety Committee (COPASST or Vigía SST) or a designated investigator. The investigation process involves gathering information, identifying the root causes of the accident, and developing corrective action plans to prevent recurrence. The investigation should be completed within 15 business days of the accident.

Workers' Compensation in Colombia

Workers who suffer a workplace accident or develop an occupational disease are entitled to compensation. This includes coverage for medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, temporary disability benefits, permanent disability benefits, and death benefits for dependents. The employer's ARL is responsible for administering these workers' compensation benefits.

Important Considerations

Independent workers are also entitled to occupational risk coverage by affiliating themselves with an ARL. Employers should be aware that they may be subject to fines or sanctions for failing to comply with workplace accident protocols.

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