National OSH Strategy - Latvia

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Introduction

In the European Union, the strategic framework on OSH is used to develop the EU policy on OSH and coordinate the national policies of the Member States. The EU strategic framework identifies key challenges and strategic objectives for health and safety at work and presents actions and instruments to address these in the coming years.

The EU strategic framework (2021 – 2027) addresses the changing needs in worker’s protection brought by the digital and green transitions, new forms of work and the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the framework will continue to address traditional occupational safety and health risks, such as risks of accidents at work, exposure to hazardous chemicals musculoskeletal disorders or mental health problems. The success of the framework depends on its implementation at EU, national, sectoral and enterprise levels.

National strategies are well known as a policy instrument to enhance the effectiveness of an OSH system through the collaborative and smart use of resources. They include approaches such as priority setting, prior action defining and action plans. The Commission calls on Member States to update and draw up their national occupational safety and health strategies in line with this strategic framework - in cooperation with social partners - to ensure that the new measures reach the workplace.

The main ministry responsible for OSH policy in Latvia is the Ministry of Welfare (Labklājības Ministrija) [1] and it’s Department of Labour Relations and OSH Policy. The Ministry of Welfare is responsible for general overview of OSH policy in Latvia and fulfilment of obligations regarding state policy in the area of labour protection as they are described in article 23 of the Labour Protection Law. Requirements set by article 24 of the Labour Protection Law foresee that the Ministry of Welfare shall formulate state policy in the field of labour protection and coordinate its implementation.

Basic information on the national OSH strategy

The Strategy on Social Protection and Labour Market Policy Guidelines 2021-2027 includes also occupational safety and health issues, so it is considered as national strategy on OSH in Latvia [2].

The Labour Protection Development Plan for 2021-2023 [3] is the short-term policy planning document which has been developed in order to determine specific measures for further development of the field of labour protection on the basis of the Social Protection and Labour Market Policy Guidelines for 2021-2027.

The former national strategy was the Strategy for the Development of the Labour Protection Field 2016-2020 [4].

Background and the perceived problem

One of the action lines set out in the Social Protection and Labour Market Policy Guidelines 2021-2027 is to promote an inclusive labour market for everyone and quality jobs by supporting long-term participation in the labour market. Adequate protection of the health and safety of employees is essential for ensuring quality jobs. The main challenges related to the field of labour protection has been identified:

  1. a relatively high number of fatal and serious accidents at work;
  2. an increase in the number of occupational diseases, including young workers;
  3. adequate legal protection and determination of the legal status of workers in different forms of employment;
  4. insufficient performance of labour market institutions to respond to changing circumstances.

Within the framework of the plan, it is planned to continue the measures already started in the previous period, which was based on the Strategy for the Development of the Labour Protection Field 2016-2020, the Labour Protection Development Plan 2016-2018 and the Labour Protection Development Plan for 2019-2020. At the same time, new measures are envisaged, taking into account the current situation.

Main characteristics and objectives of the OSH-strategy (action plan)

The main directions of policy development, the issues to be solved and the tasks to be implemented have been laid down in the Labour Protection Policy Guidelines since 2008. The main objective of labour protection is to improve the safety and health of employees at work by preventing accidents at work and occupational diseases as much as possible. Continuing the progress towards this goal, the Social Protection and Labour Market Policy Guidelines 2021-2027 were adopted in 2021, prescribing specific measures in the Labour Protection Development Plan 2021-2023. Within the framework of the plan, it is planned to continue the measures already started in the previous period and at the same time, new measures are envisaged, taking into account the current situation.

The strategy describes the situation and sets general objectives for the period of 2021 to 2027 but is not providing any detailed action plans. To provide more detailed activity plans there are supportive documents that have been adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers.

Details of the policy guidelines

Social Protection and Labour Market Policy Guidelines for 2021-2027

The policy objective is that social protection and labour market policies aim to promote social inclusion of citizens by reducing income inequalities and poverty, developing an accessible and tailor-made system of social services and legal support, as well as promoting a high level of employment in a quality working environment. To achieve the objective the Strategy on Social Protection and Labour Market Policy Guidelines 2021-2027 defines five action lines. One of the action lines set out in the Social Protection and Labour Market Policy Guidelines 2021-2027 is to promote an inclusive labour market for everyone and quality jobs by supporting long-term participation in the labour market. Adequate protection of the health and safety of employees is essential for ensuring quality jobs. The main challenges related to the field of labour protection has been identified:

  1. a relatively high number of fatal and serious accidents at work;
  2. an increase in the number of occupational diseases, including young workers;
  3. adequate legal protection and determination of the legal status of workers in different forms of employment;
  4. insufficient performance of labour market institutions to respond to changing circumstances.

The actions line describes the medium term objectives, the long-term objectives and the intended results.

Action line 3: "Inclusive labour market for all and quality jobs supporting long-term labour market participation".

In the medium-term objectives:

  • To provide personalised support to persons most at risk of unemployment and long-term unemployment, especially persons with disabilities, young people not in education or work, persons with low and inadequate skills in the labour market
  • To promote reconciliation of work and private life for employees

Long-term objectives:

  • Increase labour market participation of disadvantaged unemployed and economically inactive people
  • To ensure a safe and healthy working environment and to promote the longer working life of employees

Results:

  • Employment rate has increased to 80%, including for persons with disabilities – to 50%
  • The long-term unemployment rate shall not exceed 15% of all registered unemployed persons
  • The total number of victims of serious accidents at work and deaths of fatal accidents at work per 100 000 employees has decreased to 28.5%

Another action line set out in the Social Protection and Labour Market Policy Guidelines is:

Action line 5: "Strengthening governance of social protection and labour market policies"

In the medium-term objectives:

  • Improve access to services by reducing the administrative burden on customers and optimising the business processes of the sector.
  • Implement targeted measures in various areas to promote equal opportunities and rights for men and women.
  • Review the planning system of employees of institutions administering social protection and labour market services, as well as increase the importance of work and achieve adequate remuneration

Long-term objectives:

  • State, local government and private social service providers are ensured with the functionality of sharing platforms for the provision of modern and efficient services.
  • Everyone involved in the planning, implementation and monitoring of any policy has an understanding of the equal rights and opportunities of women and men and persons with disabilities.
  • To achieve a reduction of long-term vacancies in institutions administering social protection and labour market services.
  • Timely, regular, reliable, and qualitative data are available for social protection and labour market policy planning

Results:

  • Gender equality index for Latvia is not less than 60%.
  • The level of avoidable turnover of employees of institutions administering social protection and labour market services shall not exceed 25% per year and the proportion of employees who have signs of professional combustion shall not exceed 20%.
  • Increased remuneration of employees of institutions administering social protection and labour market services 100% of the maximum scale.

Labour Protection Development Plan for 2021-2023

On the basis of the guidelines, several short-term planning documents have been developed. One of them is the "Labour Protection Development Plan for 2021-2023".

Purpose of the Labour Protection Development Plan for 2021-2023: To ensure a safe and healthy working environment and to promote the extension of the working life of employees.

Policy outcome: Inclusive, equal and high-quality labour market development has been promoted.

Course of action: An inclusive labour market for all and quality jobs, supporting long-term participation in the labour market.

Task No.1. To raise the level of awareness and understanding of the society, especially employers, employees and labour protection specialists regarding labour law and labour protection issues (in different forms of employment) and to promote the development of preventive culture (→9 Measures)

Task No.2. To provide support to enterprises, especially micro and small enterprises, in the creation of a safe and healthy working environment. (→5Measures)

Task No.3. To promote preventive prevention of occupational diseases and early diagnosis of occupational diseases. (→4 Measures)

Task No.4. To improve legal protection of employees, their understanding and knowledge of employment legal relationships, especially for employees of non-standard/ new forms of employment. (→2 Measures)

Course of action: Inclusive labour market for all and quality jobs, supporting long-term participation in the labour market

Task. To improve the attraction of highly qualified workforce to the State Labour Inspectorate and the improvement of its performance (→3 Measures)

Actors and stakeholders

Requirements set by article 24 of the Labour Protection Law foresee that the Ministry of Welfare shall formulate state policy in the field of labour protection and coordinate its implementation. The Social Protection and Labor Market Policy Guidelines 2021-2027 have been developed and adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers.

The Ministry of Welfare is the responsible authority for the supervision of the tasks laid down in the Strategy. The draft plan was discussed with the social partners LDDK and LBAS, as well as the Association of Competent Labour Protection Authorities.

Resources and time frame

The Strategy on Social Protection and Labour Market Policy Guidelines covers the period from 2021 to 2027. The Labour Protection Development Plan covers the period from 2021 to 2023.

For the implementation of the measures included in the plan, it is intended to use financial resources from the State budget, including from the Special Budget for Accidents at Work, as well as the financing of the specific objective 7.3.1 "To improve labour safety, especially in enterprises of dangerous sectors" of the Operational Programme "Growth and Employment".

Evaluation

In 2019, an information report on the interim evaluation of the implementation of the Strategy for the Development of the Labour Protection Field and the implementation of the Labour Protection Development Plan 2016-2018 was prepared, evaluating the measures implemented so far and the progress achieved in the field of labour protection. It can be concluded that the measures taken in general have been directly aimed at achieving the objectives and results set.

Ex ante indicators

  • The number of accidents at work.
  • The number of fatal and serious accidents calculated per 100 000 employees to characterise the situation in Latvia.
  • The number of occupational diseases.

Relationship to EU Strategic Framework on health and safety at work 2021-2027

The measures included in the Labour Protection Development Plan correspond to the priorities and current events set out at EU level, which are set out in the EU Strategic Framework on health and safety at work 2021-2027. Examples are:

Key objective 1 of the EU Framework is covered by

Task No.1. To raise the level of awareness and understanding of the society, especially employers, employees and labour protection specialists regarding labour law and labour protection issues (in different forms of employment) and to promote the development of preventive culture (the related measures include among others prevention of musculoskeletal diseases, psycho-emotional risks)

Task No.3. To promote preventive prevention of occupational diseases and early diagnosis of occupational diseases.

Key objective 2 of the EU Framework is covered by

Task No.1. To raise the level of awareness and understanding of the society, especially employers, employees and labour protection specialists regarding labour law and labour protection issues (in different forms of employment) and to promote the development of preventive culture (the related measures include among others protection against chemical substances)

Action line 3 mentions in particular an inclusive labour market for all and quality jobs supporting long-term labour market participation.

Key objective 3 of the EU Framework: Taking into account the course of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and the expected strengthening of remote work also after the end of the emergency situation, it is necessary to strengthen the understanding of employers and the public regarding the necessity to perform the work environment risk assessment for remote workplaces and the skills of labour protection specialists and employees' representatives to perform it. This is covered by Task No.1 in several measures (measure 3 [5]and 8 [6]).

Resources

  1. Ministry of Welfare (2022). Home page. Retrieved 28. June 2022, from: [1]
  2. Par Sociālās aizsardzības un darba tirgus politikas pamatnostādnēm 2021-2027. Gadam. (Strategy on Social Protection and Labour Market Policy Guidelines 2021-2027). Available at: [2]
  3. Par Darba aizsardzības jomas attīstības plānu 2021.-2023. Gadam. (Labour Protection Development Plan for 2021-2023). Available at: [3]
  4. Par Darba aizsardzības politikas pamatnostādnēm 2016 -2020 gadam (Strategy for the Development of the Labour Protection Field 2016-2020). Available at: [4]
  5. Task No. 1, Measure 3: Informing of persons related to the establishment and maintenance of the labour protection system of the enterprise in seminars (including the containment of COVID-19, psycho-emotional risks, specific risks of various sectors, etc.)
  6. Task No. 1, Measure 8: Provision of online and face-to-face consultations and online seminars on work environment risks, in particular biological risk reduction and prevention.

Contributors

Palmer, e.schmitzfelten