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Costa Rica

Health and Safety Standards

Explore workplace health and safety laws in Costa Rica

Health and safety laws

Costa Rica has a comprehensive legal framework dedicated to protecting the health and safety of workers. The fundamental right of workers to safe and hygienic working conditions is established in Article 66 of the Costa Rican Constitution. The Labor Code and the General Regulations on Occupational Safety and Health are the core legislations that outline specific provisions related to health and safety. Costa Rica also has numerous specific regulations addressing particular hazards such as chemicals, noise, radiation, and biological agents.

Key Institutions

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MTSS) is the primary authority responsible for formulating health and safety policies, enforcing regulations, and carrying out inspections. The Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS) manages social security, which includes providing healthcare and disability benefits related to workplace injuries and illnesses. The Occupational Health Council is a technical body advising the MTSS on health and safety matters and promoting preventative measures.

Employer Responsibilities

Employers in Costa Rica have a broad range of legally mandated health and safety obligations. These include providing a safe workplace, identifying potential hazards, conducting regular risk assessments, providing mandatory training to all employees, supplying and enforcing the use of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), establishing health and safety committees, and reporting serious workplace accidents and illnesses to authorities.

Rights of Workers

Costa Rican workers have several essential health and safety rights. These include the right to be informed about hazards in the workplace, the right to refuse to perform work if it poses an imminent danger to their health or safety, the right to be involved in health and safety matters, and the right to health monitoring and medical examinations if exposed to certain hazards.

Enforcement and Penalties

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security is responsible for enforcing health and safety regulations. Violations can result in warnings and improvement notices for minor or first-time infringements, substantial fines for non-compliance, temporary or permanent closure of businesses in cases of severe or persistent failures, and in extreme cases, criminal prosecution for violations resulting in injuries or fatalities.

Occupational health and safety

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is a crucial aspect of any workplace. In Costa Rica, the primary legal framework for OHS is the General Regulations on Occupational Health and Safety. This framework establishes guidelines and obligations for employers to ensure safe and healthy workplaces. The Labor Code also addresses worker protection during work activities and reinforces OHS regulations. Additionally, Costa Rica has numerous regulations addressing particular hazards and risks, such as pesticides, noise and vibration, asbestos, and ionizing radiation.

Responsible Government Authorities

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security is the overarching authority responsible for labor and social welfare issues, including overseeing and enforcing OHS legislation and regulations. Within the Ministry of Labor, the Department of Social Welfare houses the Occupational Security and Health Office, dedicated to improving OHS conditions in all workplaces, both public and private. The Occupational Health Council, a technical body attached to the Ministry of Labor, promotes OHS best practices and advises on policy development.

Employer Obligations

Employers have several obligations under Costa Rican OHS regulations. They must identify and assess workplace hazards and risks, then implement control measures to mitigate them. Companies with a specific number of employees are required to form joint labor-management safety committees to monitor and address OHS concerns. Employers must also supply and ensure the use of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when necessary. Workers must receive training on potential hazards, safe work practices, and the correct use of PPE. Additionally, employers must maintain records and report all workplace accidents and incidents to the relevant authorities.

Worker Rights

Workers have several rights under Costa Rican OHS regulations. They have the right to information about hazards in their workplace and the control measures in place. Workers can refuse work they believe poses an imminent danger to their health or safety. They also have the right to participate in OHS decision-making and safety committees.

Focus Areas in Costa Rican OHS

Costa Rica focuses on reducing risks in several key areas. In the agricultural sector, the focus is on reducing risks associated with pesticide exposure, machinery hazards, and ergonomic issues. Construction sites are another target area, with emphasis on fall prevention, electrical safety, and proper equipment use. Chemical hazards, machinery safety, and noise exposure are key concerns in manufacturing settings.

Workplace inspection

Workplace inspections in Costa Rica are essential tools for ensuring compliance with labor standards and maintaining a safe and healthy work environment. These inspections aim to protect workers' rights, prevent accidents and occupational illnesses, and enforce labor laws and regulations. Key regulations include the Costa Rican Constitution (Article 66), the Labor Code, and the General Regulations on Occupational Health and Safety.

The Inspection Process in Costa Rica

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security, through the National Directorate of Labor Inspection, oversees workplace inspections. These inspections focus on Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) and labor conditions, with additional regulations depending on the industry sector. There's no fixed inspection frequency, with schedules often based on risk assessment, worker complaints, or targeted campaigns by the Ministry of Labor.

Inspection Procedures

The inspection process typically involves planning and notice, an opening meeting, a walkthrough of the workplace, interviews with employers and workers, document review, a closing meeting, and a comprehensive report detailing the inspection's findings.

Follow-Up Actions

After an inspection, inspectors may issue corrective orders, impose fines and penalties for non-compliance, or provide technical support to help employers improve workplace conditions.

Workers' Rights During Inspections

Workers have the right to participate in inspections, request confidentiality during interviews, and are protected from retaliation by employers.

Workplace accidents

Workplace accidents are a serious matter and require immediate attention. Employers are legally obligated to report such incidents to the National Insurance Institute (INS - Instituto Nacional de Seguros) and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MTSS - Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social) as soon as possible. Non-fatal incidents should be reported within 24 hours of occurrence, while fatal incidents should be reported immediately. Reporting can be done through a form provided by the INS, called the Employer's Declaration of Work Accidents (DPAT), or electronically through the INS online system.

Investigation Processes

Employers are primarily responsible for investigating workplace accidents. The goal is to identify the causes and implement corrective measures to prevent future incidents. The INS also conducts independent investigations into serious or fatal workplace accidents, focusing on understanding the circumstances and determining whether any safety violations contributed to the accident. Employees or their representatives have the right to be involved in accident investigations, providing information, participating in interviews, and making recommendations on preventative measures.

Compensation Claims

Workers who suffer injuries or illnesses as a result of a workplace accident are entitled to compensation through the INS occupational risk insurance system. This system provides coverage for all necessary medical expenses related to the injury/illness, temporary or permanent disability benefits depending on the severity of the injury/illness, and survivor benefits for dependents in the event of a fatal accident. The claim process involves a medical evaluation of the injured worker, claim filing by the worker or their representative, and claim evaluation and decision by the INS.

The primary law governing workplace safety and occupational risk in Costa Rica is the Occupational Health Law (Ley Sobre Riesgos del Trabajo). Specific regulations issued by the INS outline procedures for reporting accidents, investigating incidents, and processing compensation claims. The Labor Code (Código de Trabajo) contains provisions related to employer obligations for maintaining safe working conditions and providing compensation for workplace injuries.

Employers must display information about workplace accident protocols prominently in the workplace. Failure to comply with reporting and investigation requirements can result in penalties. Workers have the right to refuse hazardous work without fear of negative retribution from an employer.

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