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Health and Safety Standards

Explore workplace health and safety laws in Greenland

Health and safety laws

The Greenland Working Environment Act is a crucial piece of legislation for health and safety in Greenland. It sets the overall framework for the responsibilities and duties of employers and employees in ensuring a safe working environment. Employers are required to assess workplace risks, implement necessary safety measures, provide training and information, and report accidents and near-misses. On the other hand, employees have the right to refuse dangerous work, participate in safety and health matters, and be protected against discrimination for raising safety concerns.

Key Regulations Issued Under the Act

The Act is supplemented by numerous regulations addressing specific hazards and industries. These include regulations on the performance of work, chemical and biological substances, construction work, and work in the fishing industry.

Workplace Safety Committees

The Act mandates the establishment of workplace safety committees in workplaces with at least 10 employees. These committees are composed of employer and employee representatives and are responsible for risk assessment and prevention, workplace inspections, incident investigations, and promoting safety awareness and training for employees.

Role of Trade Unions

Trade unions in Greenland actively promote workplace health and safety. They often participate in safety committees, negotiate collective agreements that include health and safety provisions, and advocate for worker rights.

Additional Considerations

Greenlandic law and regulations increasingly recognize the importance of the psychosocial work environment in protecting employee well-being. Specialized regulations exist for high-risk industries like mining and offshore oil and gas. The Act also lays out penalties, including fines and potential imprisonment, for serious violations of health and safety laws.

Occupational health and safety

Occupational health and safety is a crucial aspect of any workplace. It involves maintaining a safe and healthy work environment by adhering to various standards and guidelines.

Workplace Design and Conditions

Workplaces must ensure adequate ventilation to control contaminants and maintain air quality. Sufficient lighting is also necessary to reduce eye strain and prevent accidents. Guidelines also address maintaining appropriate temperatures and ergonomic principles for tasks to prevent injuries and heat or cold stress. Exposure limits for noise are set, and measures must be implemented to reduce noise levels where necessary. Additionally, workplaces must provide clean toilets, washing facilities, and safe drinking water.

Chemical Hazards

Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) or other recognized exposure limits apply to airborne chemicals. Employers must provide Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for hazardous substances, informing workers about risks and safe handling procedures. Regulations also require engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE) when working with hazardous chemicals.

Physical Hazards

All moving machinery parts must be guarded to prevent contact. Guardrails, fall arrest systems, and other measures are mandated where there's a risk of falls from heights. Electrical installations and equipment must comply with standards to prevent shocks and fires. Workplaces must also have fire prevention and evacuation plans, along with appropriate fire-fighting equipment.

Industry-Specific Standards

Specialized regulations address ventilation, mine stability, emergency response, and other mining-specific hazards. In the fishing and seafood processing industry, regulations focus on vessel safety, cold stress, slip hazards, and ergonomic risks associated with processing work. In construction, detailed regulations cover fall protection, scaffolding, excavations, and other construction-related hazards.

Psychosocial Work Environment

Employers have a duty to identify and address factors that contribute to workplace stress, burnout, and other mental health risks. Zero-tolerance policies and procedures to prevent and address harassment and bullying are required. Regulations also encourage flexible work arrangements and measures to support working parents, aiding work-life balance and overall well-being.

Workplace inspection

Workplace inspections are a critical aspect of maintaining compliance with occupational regulations in Greenland. The Working Environment Authority (Arbejdstilsynet) is tasked with carrying out these inspections and enforcing the Greenland Working Environment Act (Lov om arbejdsmiljø i Grønland).

Inspection Criteria

Workplace inspections in Greenland encompass a broad spectrum of health and safety hazards. Some of the key areas of focus include:

  • Physical Hazards: These inspections evaluate machine guarding, fall protection, electrical safety, fire safety, noise levels, and overall workplace orderliness.
  • Chemical Hazards: Inspectors scrutinize the handling and storage of hazardous substances, the availability of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs), and the use of suitable personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Ergonomic Hazards: The design of workstations, repetitive tasks, and manual handling are assessed to identify ergonomic risks.
  • Psychosocial Hazards: Inspections address factors that contribute to workplace stress, harassment, and violence.
  • Specific Industry Risks: Inspectors assess adherence to industry-specific regulations in sectors such as construction, fishing, or mining.

Inspection Frequency

The frequency of workplace inspections in Greenland is determined by several factors:

  • Workplace Risk Level: Workplaces that are considered high-risk are inspected more frequently.
  • Accident History: Workplaces with a history of accidents or serious incidents may be inspected more often.
  • The Working Environment Authority's Priorities: The Authority may conduct targeted inspection campaigns focusing on specific industries or hazards.

Inspection Procedures

  1. Planning and Notification: The Working Environment Authority typically notifies workplaces in advance, but it can conduct unannounced inspections under certain circumstances.
  2. Opening Interview: Inspectors meet with employers and worker representatives to discuss the scope of the inspection and any known safety concerns.
  3. Walkthrough Inspection: Inspectors conduct a visual walkthrough, observing work processes, equipment, and facilities. They may interview employees and review documentation.
  4. Closing Interview: Inspectors present their findings and discuss potential violations or areas for improvement.
  5. Written Report: The Authority issues a written report detailing findings, including improvement notices specifying corrective actions and deadlines.

Follow-up Actions

  • Corrective Actions: Employers are legally obligated to address any identified violations within the deadlines specified in the inspection report.
  • Re-inspections: The Working Environment Authority may conduct follow-up inspections to verify that required corrective actions have been taken.
  • Penalties: Failure to comply with health and safety regulations can result in fines, improvement orders, or even work stoppages in severe cases.

Employees have the right to request an inspection by the Working Environment Authority if they believe there are serious safety hazards in the workplace.

Workplace accidents

Employers are required to report all workplace accidents that result in injury or illness to the Working Environment Authority as soon as possible. Serious accidents, such as fatalities or those resulting in hospitalization, must be reported immediately. Employers must also keep detailed records of all workplace accidents, including the date, time, location, nature of injury, and circumstances.

Accident Investigations

Accident investigations are conducted with the aim of uncovering root causes and preventing similar incidents from happening in the future. Employers must conduct internal investigations, often in collaboration with the workplace safety committee. The investigation process should involve interviews with involved workers and witnesses, examination of the accident scene, review of relevant documentation (procedures, maintenance records, etc.), and development of corrective actions to prevent recurrence.

Workers' Compensation Claims

Greenland has a mandatory workers' compensation system providing benefits to workers injured or made ill due to their work. All workers are generally covered regardless of fault. Compensation may include medical treatment and rehabilitation costs, wage replacement for lost income, disability benefits, and survivor benefits in cases of fatal accidents. Workers must file claims with the relevant insurance entity. Disputes may be handled through administrative review or in the court system.

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