Client: Ministry of Social Affairs

Period: 2011

Are things OK in the field of occupational health and safety in Estonia? The Ministry of Social Affairs commissioned this analysis to get an answer to that question, with more specific purpose to assess the harmony between Estonian legal acts and practices in the field of occupational health and safety and international laws, EU directives, other member states’ good practices. Attention was directed also to the structure of occupational health and work safety infrastructure in Estonia.

Four related fields were observed:
• occupational health and work safety policy;
• occupational health and work safety legal framework;
• enforcement policy;
• occupational health and work safety infrastructure.

In February 2010 the Ministry of Social Affairs adopted a new Occupational Health and Safety Strategy for 2010-2013. There is also a detailed action plan for the implementation of the strategy. However, no quantitative targets on very important figures like the numbers of occupational accidents and occupational diseases are mentioned. This strategy is not a document for a wider audience. It is a vision and an action plan for civil servants in conducting their everyday activities, to ensure that they do not lose focus over the longer term. It would be important that the state has a political document addressing the public more widely as well.

Looking at the EU Framework Directive and comparing it with the text of the Estonian OHS Act, the general remark is: Estonia has implemented the Framework Directive very well. Not only literally, but also the ‘spirit’ of the EU legislative framework on OHS has been written down quite good. The analysis found only a few clear gaps (clear and obvious disparities). In some other cases comments and suggestions are given in this report for improving the implementation of the Framework Directive into the Estonian OHS Act. It is also important to stress that the HWSA could have considerably better structure and be built up in a more user-friendly fashion. A similar regulation from this field in Holland could be a good example. Many proposals were made to harmonise Estonian legal acts with ILO conventions that have not been ratified yet but the adoption of which could help improve the situation of health and work safety in Estonia.

The State Labour Inspectorate of Estonia has begun to develop elements of a national labour inspection enforcement policy for OHS in consultation with the social partners, but not yet published it to a wider stakeholder audience. Thus, on the one hand, there is as yet no comprehensive, modern national labour inspection enforcement policy; and on the other hand, representatives of both the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Labour Inspectorate have indicated a strong need for such a policy. Therefore, we recommend to develop a new, clear, considered, comprehensive, coherent and consistent National Labour Inspection Enforcement Policy through tri- or, preferably, multi-partite social dialogue.

It is not possible to achieve good results in the field of occupational health and work safety only by changing laws, it is necessary to develop a whole infrastructure.

As agreed during the stakeholder meeting in April 2011 core topics to improve a well working Estonian OHS infrastructure comprise:
• legislative frame;
• tri partite social dialogue;
• accident insurance;
• risk assessment;
• labour inspection enforcement policy;
• occupational health services.

The analysis was made in co-operation with a Dutch consultation company TNO and was commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs.