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Health and Safety Standards

Explore workplace health and safety laws in Fiji

Health and safety laws

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1996 (HSW Act) is the primary legislation for health and safety in Fiji. It outlines the responsibilities of employers, workers, and other stakeholders in maintaining safe and healthy workplaces. The Health and Safety at Work (General Workplace Conditions) Regulations 2003 supplements the HSW Act, providing detailed requirements for matters such as workplace design, ventilation, lighting, first aid, and personal protective equipment.

Responsibilities of Employers

Under the HSW Act, employers have significant duties to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their workers. These duties include the provision of a safe workplace, risk assessment and control, safe use of plant and substances, information, instruction, training, and supervision, and consultation with workers.

Responsibilities of Workers

Workers also have a critical role in maintaining workplace safety. The HSW Act outlines their responsibilities, which include taking reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by their actions or omissions, and cooperating with their employers in complying with health and safety requirements.

Health and Safety Representatives and Committees

The HSW Act promotes worker participation in health and safety matters through Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) and Health and Safety Committees (HSCs).

Enforcement and Penalties

The Ministry of Employment, Productivity & Industrial Relations enforces the HSW Act. Inspectors have broad powers to enter workplaces, conduct investigations, issue notices, and prosecute violations. Penalties for non-compliance can be severe, including fines and imprisonment.

Other Relevant Legislation

Several other laws in Fiji touch on aspects of health and safety, including the Workmen's Compensation Act, the Public Health Act, and the Factories Act.

Importance of Compliance

Adhering to health and safety laws in Fiji is not just a legal obligation; it's essential for protecting workers, creating a productive and positive work environment, and avoiding legal and financial consequences.

Occupational health and safety

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is a crucial aspect of any workplace, and in Fiji, it's primarily governed by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1996 (HASAWA 1996). This act outlines the key responsibilities of employers and employees in ensuring workplace safety.

Key Elements of HASAWA 1996

Employer Responsibilities

Employers are required to:

  • Provide and maintain safe work environments, machinery, and systems.
  • Ensure safe use, handling, transport, and storage of substances.
  • Provide information, instruction, training, and supervision to employees.
  • Develop OHS risk management plans and procedures.
  • Report and investigate workplace incidents.

Employee Responsibilities

Employees are expected to:

  • Take reasonable care for their own health and safety.
  • Cooperate with their employer's OHS efforts.
  • Use personal protective equipment (PPE) as instructed.
  • Report workplace hazards and unsafe conditions.

Other Relevant OHS Regulations

Fiji has additional OHS regulations that pertain to specific industries or hazards. These include the Health and Safety at Work (General Workplace Conditions) Regulations 2003, which detail requirements for sanitation, facilities, lighting, ventilation, and noise control. There are also specific regulations for construction work and maritime (ships and ports).

Standards and Best Practices

In addition to legislation, Fiji adopts various standards and best practices to guide OHS implementation. These include the National OSH Policy, which outlines the government's commitment and strategies for improving workplace safety and health. The Fiji National Occupational Safety and Health Service (FNOSHS) provides resources, training, and support for OHS management in workplaces. There are also industry-specific codes of practice that provide tailored guidance on managing risks in different sectors.

Key Challenges in Fiji

Despite these regulations and resources, there are still challenges to OHS in Fiji. Smaller workplaces may struggle with allocating sufficient resources for OHS compliance. The regulations can be harder to enforce in the large informal sector. Continued efforts are needed to raise awareness about OHS rights and responsibilities among both employers and workers.

Workplace inspection

Workplace inspections in Fiji are a crucial part of ensuring that employers are adhering to the necessary standards to protect their workers. These inspections aim to identify and mitigate any potential hazards in the workplace. The primary agency responsible for enforcing these standards and conducting inspections is the National Occupational Health and Safety Service (NOHSS), which operates under the Ministry of Employment, Productivity, and Industrial Relations. Depending on the industry, other bodies may also be involved in specific workplace inspections.

Inspection Criteria

Workplace inspections cover a wide range of issues, including:

  • Workplace Conditions: These include cleanliness, ventilation, lighting, noise levels, temperature, and sanitary facilities.
  • Machinery and Equipment: This involves the safeguarding of machinery, maintenance, electrical safety, and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Hazardous Substances: The handling, storage, labeling, and disposal of hazardous chemicals are inspected.
  • Fire Safety: Fire prevention measures, emergency exits, evacuation plans, and fire-fighting equipment are checked.
  • First Aid: The availability of first aid kits and trained personnel is assessed.
  • Accident and Incident Reporting: Records and documentation of workplace accidents and incidents are reviewed.
  • OHS Policies and Procedures: The existence of a workplace OHS policy, risk assessments, and training programs are evaluated.

Inspection Frequency

The frequency of workplace inspections depends on several factors:

  • Workplace Risk Level: High-risk workplaces, such as construction sites and factories, are inspected more frequently than low-risk ones, like offices.
  • Complaint-Driven Inspections: NOHSS may conduct inspections in response to specific complaints about workplace hazards or OHS violations.
  • Routine Inspections: NOHSS aims to conduct routine inspections of workplaces on a regular basis, with resources and capacity influencing scheduling.

Inspection Procedures

The inspection process typically involves:

  • Entry Notice: NOHSS inspectors usually provide advance notice before conducting an inspection.
  • Opening Meeting: The inspector meets with the employer or representative to explain the inspection purpose and process.
  • Walkthrough Inspection: The inspector observes the workplace, identifies potential hazards, and may ask questions of employees.
  • Document Review: The inspector examines OHS records, policies, training materials, and accident reports.
  • Closing Meeting: The inspector summarizes the findings and discusses any identified violations or potential areas for improvement.

Follow-Up Actions

After the inspection, several actions may be taken:

  • Improvement Notice: For minor violations, inspectors may issue improvement notices requiring corrective actions within a specified time frame.
  • Prohibition Notice: For serious hazards posing an immediate risk, inspectors can issue prohibition notices stopping work until the hazard is rectified.
  • Infringement Notice: Inspectors may issue infringement notices (fines) for OHS breaches.
  • Prosecution: In cases of significant non-compliance or repeated offenses, NOHSS may initiate legal proceedings.

Workplace accidents

Workplace accidents are a serious concern and require immediate attention. Employers are obligated to report any incident that results in death, serious bodily injury, or dangerous occurrences to the Ministry of Labour as soon as possible. This report should be made using the prescribed form. Additionally, employers must maintain detailed records of these incidents, including descriptions of events, injuries, and corrective actions taken.

Investigation of Workplace Accidents

Employers are primarily responsible for investigating workplace accidents. The goal of these investigations is to determine the root causes and implement preventive measures. The Ministry of Labour may also conduct investigations, particularly in cases of serious accidents or where there are suspicions of non-compliance with safety regulations. The focus of these investigations should be to identify immediate and underlying causes, establish failures in safety systems or procedures, and determine appropriate corrective actions to prevent recurrence.

Compensation Claims

The Accident Compensation Commission Fiji (ACCF) administers a no-fault compensation scheme for workers injured in employment-related accidents. All workers in Fiji who suffer injuries arising out of or in the course of employment are entitled to compensation. This includes those in the formal and informal sectors.

Types of Compensation

Compensation can take several forms:

  • Medical Expenses: ACCF covers reasonable medical treatment costs related to the workplace injury.
  • Earnings-Related Compensation: Workers receive a percentage of their earnings for periods of temporary incapacity due to the injury.
  • Permanent Impairment Compensation: Lump sum payments may be made for permanent disabilities resulting from the workplace accident.
  • Death Benefits: ACCF provides compensation to dependents of workers who die due to workplace injuries.

Claims Process

The claims process involves the worker (or their representatives in case of death) submitting a claim form to ACCF along with supporting documentation, such as medical reports. ACCF then assesses the claim and determines the appropriate compensation.

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