The new Law on Safety and Health at Work was published on April 29, 2023, in the Official Gazette of RS no. 35/23 and went into force on May 7, 2023. With the entry into force of the new law, it completely ceases to be valid the previous Law on Safety and Health at Work (“Official Gazette of RS”, nos. 101/2005, 91/2015 and 113/2017).
The new Law on Safety and Health at Work introduces a number of novelties into the system of protection of workers’ rights and fully complies with European standards. The new law was adopted after 18 years, symbolically, on the World Day for Safety and Health at Work.
The aim of the new law is to establish comprehensive regulations and standards to ensure the safety, health, and well-being of workers in all sectors of the economy through strictening the penal policy, i.e. increasing fines, introducing new measures and obligations for employers and introducing additional measures for the protection of the health of employees.
Novelties introduced by the new law
Introduction of new terms
The new law introduces new terms such as: register of injuries at work; license register; serious, unavoidable and immediate danger; work from home; remote work; work environment; work at height, work at depth; worksite; etc.
New mandatory obligations of employer
The new law prescribes the employer’s obligation to provide the employee with personal protective equipment in good condition and conduct training for its proper use.
The new law prescribes the employer’s obligation to direct the employee, at the employee’s request, to undergo medical examination that corresponds to the risks at the workplace at regular intervals, at the latest within five years of the previous examination. The costs of medical examinations are borne by the employer.
The new law also prescribes the employer’s obligation to issue a work permit due to greater protection of employees when performing certain high-risk jobs (when performing work at height, in depth, in confined spaces, in spaces with potentially explosive atmospheres).
Engagement of occupational safety and health advisers and associates
The novelty prescribed by the new law is that in certain high-risk activities, an employer who employes from 251 to 500 employees, is obliged to conclude a full-time employment agreement with at least two occupational safety and health advisors, and the employer who employs more than 500 employees is required to conclude a full-time employment agreement with at least three occupational safety and health advisors. In all other activities, an employer who employs more than 500 employees is obliged to conclude a full-time employment agreement with at least two occupational health and safety associates.
Register of injuries at work
The new law establishes a register of injuries at work, which is maintained in electronic form by an administrative body within the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans Affairs and Social Affairs. The register of injuries at work contains accurate and up-to-date data on injuries at work and enables faster and more efficient determination of the facts necessary to exercise employees’ rights from health insurance.
The law has strictened the penal policy by doubling the maximum fines and prescribing 73 different misdemeanors for breaching the law.
The introduction of the new law reflects Serbia’s commitment to align its workplace safety standards with international norms and best practices. By prioritizing the well-being of workers and promoting a culture of safety, the legislation aims to enhance productivity, reduce absenteeism, and ultimately create a healthier and more secure work environment.
However, the successful implementation of the law will require adequate resources, training, and awareness campaigns to ensure widespread compliance and understanding. Ongoing evaluation and refinement of the legislation’s effectiveness will be crucial to address emerging safety challenges and continuously improve workplace conditions in Serbia.
By Nikola Gvoic, Partner and Alen Handan, Associate, Bojanovic & Partners