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Health and Safety Standards

Explore workplace health and safety laws in Eritrea

Health and safety laws

Eritrea's primary legal framework for health and safety is found in the Labour Proclamation of 2001 (Proclamation No. 118/2001). This law establishes fundamental principles, obligations, and rights related to health and safety.

Key Principles and Obligations

Employers have a general duty to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees as far as reasonably practicable. This includes providing safe workplaces, equipment, systems of work, and necessary information, instruction, training, and supervision. Employees have the right to participate in health and safety matters and raise concerns without fear of reprisal. They have the right to refuse work they believe poses an imminent and serious danger to health or safety.

Specific Regulations and Standards

Eritrea has additional, sector, or hazard-specific regulations that supplement the Labour Proclamation. These include regulations on the management of pesticides to protect human health and the environment, and regulations on the manufacture, sale, labeling, advertising, and use of tobacco products. Aspects of health and safety might also be touched upon in other Eritrean laws, such as those related to environmental protection, sanitation, and specific industrial sectors.

Enforcement and Compliance

The Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare is responsible for health and safety policy development and enforcement. The Labour Proclamation outlines penalties for violations of health and safety provisions, including fines and imprisonment in cases of serious negligence.

Challenges and Limitations

Eritrea faces challenges in enforcing health and safety regulations due to limited resources, capacity constraints, and low awareness of health and safety rights and obligations among some employers and workers. A substantial informal economy makes it difficult to implement and monitor health and safety standards uniformly across all sectors.

Evolving Regulatory Landscape

Eritrea continues to work towards strengthening its health and safety laws and practices. This includes a National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS) that emphasizes health and safety in its goals for improving public health preparedness and response. Eritrea also works with the International Labor Organization (ILO) to enhance its health and safety laws and promote alignment with international standards.

Occupational health and safety

Occupational health and safety (OHS) practices in Eritrea face challenges due to limited resources, awareness, and enforcement capabilities. However, there is a framework in place to address OHS issues. Key elements include the Labor Proclamation of Eritrea (2001), which outlines basic worker protections, and several International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions relevant to OHS.

Government Institutions

The Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare is responsible for developing and overseeing the implementation of OHS policies and regulations. The Department of Labor Inspection is charged with enforcing OHS standards across various workplaces. However, due to resource constraints, enforcement efforts tend to be limited.

Key Occupational Health and Safety Standards

Workplace hazards in Eritrea can be categorized into physical, chemical, biological, and ergonomic hazards. Physical hazards include noise, vibration, extreme temperatures, poor lighting, and inadequate ventilation. Chemical hazards may occur in industries such as mining and agriculture, while biological hazards are a risk for healthcare workers and others who may be exposed to infectious diseases. Ergonomic hazards, such as repetitive motions, awkward postures, and heavy lifting, present risks for musculoskeletal disorders.

Injury and Illness Prevention

Employers are expected to identify and assess potential workplace hazards, then take corrective action. This includes providing workers with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) depending on the hazards present. OHS regulations also require employers to provide safety education to workers.

Emergency Preparedness and Response

Workplaces should maintain first aid kits and have trained personnel available. Fire safety measures, such as evacuation plans, fire extinguishers, and drills, are also important for preparedness.

Challenges and Opportunities for Improvement

Eritrea faces financial and technical constraints in enforcing OHS regulations. Both employers and workers may have insufficient knowledge of OHS risks and best practices. A large portion of Eritrea's economy is informal, making it more challenging to monitor and protect workers in these settings. Opportunities for improvement include greater collaboration between the government, employers' organizations, and workers' unions, educational campaigns to increase OHS awareness, and seeking out assistance from international organizations like the ILO to strengthen implementation and enforcement capacity.

Workplace inspection

Workplace inspections are a crucial part of labor regulations in Eritrea. They help identify and mitigate workplace hazards, ensure adherence to labor regulations, and promote a culture of safety and compliance. The Labor Inspection Service (LIS), functioning under the Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare, is the primary authority overseeing these inspections.

The Eritrean Labor Inspection Service

The LIS is mandated by the Labour Proclamation No. 118/2001. It is responsible for enforcing compliance with health, safety, and labor standards, thereby protecting workers' rights and well-being.

Workplace Inspection Criteria

Workplace inspections cover a wide range of health, safety, and labor standards. Key areas of focus include Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) and Labor Standards. OSH focuses on machine guarding, fire safety, electrical safety, handling of hazardous substances, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), sanitation, hygiene facilities, and ergonomics. Labor Standards, on the other hand, ensure employment contracts are compliant, working hours and overtime regulations are adhered to, minimum wage is met, and protection against discrimination, harassment, child labor, and forced labor is in place.

Workplace Inspection Procedures

The LIS schedules inspections based on risk assessments, complaints, or routine checks. Employers may or may not receive prior notice of an inspection. The inspection process includes presenting credentials, walkthrough inspection of the workplace, interviews with employers and workers, and review of relevant documentation. Inspectors prepare a detailed report outlining findings and any identified violations, along with recommendations for corrective actions.

Follow-up Actions

Employers are legally obligated to address violations and implement the necessary corrective measures within the specified timeframe. The LIS may conduct follow-up inspections to verify compliance. Non-compliance can result in warnings, fines, or even closure of the workplace in severe cases.

Frequency of Inspections

The frequency of workplace inspections is not strictly defined. The LIS prioritizes high-risk industries and workplaces with a history of non-compliance for more frequent inspections.

Worker and Employer Involvement

Workers and their representatives have the right to participate in inspections and report safety and labor concerns. Employers are required to cooperate with inspectors, provide access to the workplace, and facilitate the inspection process.

Workplace accidents

In Eritrea, employers are legally obligated to report workplace accidents to appropriate authorities, such as the Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare. The timeframe for reporting accidents may depend on the severity of the injury, with serious accidents and fatalities requiring immediate reporting. Employers must also maintain a register of all workplace accidents, including details about the incident.

Investigation of Workplace Accidents

The Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare is generally responsible for investigating workplace accidents. In severe cases, other authorities may also be involved. The goals of the investigation are to determine the causes of the workplace accident, identify any safety hazards or violations of labor laws, and prevent future occurrences.

Compensation for Workplace Accidents

Eritrean law mandates some form of workers' compensation for workplace injuries and illnesses. Workers injured in the course of employment are generally entitled to compensation. This compensation may include medical expenses, lost wages, disability benefits, and death benefits for dependents.

Filing a Compensation Claim

Injured workers must inform their employers of the workplace accident as soon as possible. The employer is responsible for arranging and covering the cost of necessary medical treatment. The injured worker or their representatives may need to file a claim with the relevant authorities.

Additional Considerations

Employers may be required to form safety committees in the workplace to address safety and health concerns.

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