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Taiwan’s New Workplace Safety Law Expands Scope, Regulates ‘Overwork’
 

By Roy Maurer  7/23/2014
 

Taiwan’s updated occupational safety and health regulations, effective July 3, 2014, expands the law’s coverage to include all workers, enacts physical and mental stress protections and shortens employers’ accident reporting time. Additional measures of the new Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act to be enacted Jan. 1, 2015, include establishing a certification system for machinery, equipment, and tools; a registration and classification management system for chemicals; maternal health protection measures; and a monitoring regime for conducting regular process safety assessments for high-risk businesses.

The revised law “enables Taiwan to build a complete occupational health and safety protection system so as to effectively protect the health and safety of all workers,” Taiwan’s Ministry of Labor Affairs said.  

The OSH Act, formerly known as the Labor Safety and Health Act, was amended to cover all workers, including the self-employed, and must be observed by all employers in all industries. About 10.67 million workers will now be covered, up from the 6.67 covered previously, the ministry said.

The law immediately gives workers the right to evacuate and take shelter in the case of emergencies, reduces the time limit for notifying the government about “major occupational accidents” to 8 hours from 24 hours from the time the accident occurred, and stipulates that host employers and contractors are jointly liable for occupational injuries due to violations of safety and health regulations.

The second phase, beginning January 2015, includes prohibiting the use of machinery, equipment and appliances that have not been certified as meeting safety standards and the establishment of a chemical management system.

The agency said it will also conduct more frequent safety inspections and risk assessments on high-risk industries, such as petroleum refining. Companies failing to conform to the amended safety standards risk a maximum fine of $3 million Taiwan dollars (NT), equivalent to U.S. $100,000.

Protection from Mental, Physical Stress

The law was also amended to guard against the poor health outcomes of “excessive overwork.” It requires that employers have preventive measures in place against mental and ergonomic stress-induced ailments or injuries in the workplace.

“Under the drastic changes in working environment that we have experienced in recent years, the pursuit of international competitiveness by enterprises has left workers facing long working hours and heavy workload,” the ministry gave as a pretext for the amendment.

Among the new regulations related to overwork:

  • Employers are required to take precautionary measures to prevent adverse health effects resulting from an abnormal working schedule, such as overtime and night shifts.
  • Employers with 50 or more employees will be required to hire or use contracted medical staff to provide labor health protection services to manage health and promote wellness.
  • Employers with more than 100 employees, especially those within the health care, social welfare, security and financial sectors, must implement preventive measures against possible scenarios of physical and psychological abuse in the workplace, to include incidents of managers bullying subordinates and sexual harassment. These employers also are required to provide ergonomic solutions to employees suffering from “musculoskeletal disorders brought on by repetitive work.”
  • Employers with more than 300 employees must set up preventive measures against overwork-related issues, and provide medical check-ups and work hour adjustments. All related records must be kept for at least three years.
  • Employers are required to monitor the operating environment at workplaces that may pose a threat to the health of workers and to publicly disclose these plans and results as well as report them to the government.
  • Employers will adopt health protection measures and adjust the “types and scope of dangerous and harmful work” for pregnant women and women who have given birth within one year.

Violations of the rules will be punishable by a fine of between NT $30,000 and NT $150,000, while employers could be fined up to NT $300,000 in the event of occupational diseases that lead to death caused by working conditions that could have been prevented, the ministry said.

Although jail sentences for employers charged with “death from overwork” was rejected by the legislature, employers may face charges under Article 276 of the Criminal Code for professional negligence resulting in death if an employee dies on the job from a stress-induced illness.

Taiwan’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration emphasized that enforcement of the new regulations will be supplemented with numerous compliance assistance tools to help businesses improve safety and health and prevent workplace accidents. The agency said it will adopt numerous strategic means to “publicize, counsel and provide technical assistance,” draft administrative guidance for different business sizes and risks and hold numerous awareness activities to help the public gain a better understanding of the new regulations. The agency plans to host a number of public-information seminars on the amended law and establish a center to answer workers’ questions related to occupational safety and health.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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