Saudi Arabia, together with the other members of The Gulf Cooperation Council, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar, are shifting their focus on the importance of occupational health and safety.
Recently, the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Labor and Social Development announced a new guideline that will ensure the occupational health and safety of workers. In compliance with the National Strategic Program for Occupational Safety and Health, the new resolution provides employers with a framework to manage all the occupational health and safety issues affecting their employees.
Highlighted Risk Environment Categories
In collaboration with the Saudi Arabian Standards Organization and the private sector representatives, the Ministry put forward a framework that will affect employers with 50+ employees. Employers will be categorized according to the risk activity within their industry environment.
The three main categories are:
Employers who operate in the following commercial activities will fall under this category: construction; building; oil and gas; electricity; water and gas; health services; mines and quarries; manufacture of cement; petrochemicals; coal and rubber industries; manufacture of prefabricated concrete, stone, granite and bricks; manufacture of plastics, bottled drinks and disposable artificial materials; manufacture of metals; chemical industries; the transport sector; general manufacturing of consumer goods, foods, plastic, textile and building materials, carpentry, relevant machinery, household appliances and accessories; dairy factories; jewelry; and minting.
Employers who operate in any other commercial activity that was not highlighted in the medium-risk environment will fall under this category.
There is no clear definition of what employers will belong in the high-risk environment. However, employers are expected to look into their work activities and working conditions so as to determine, if in fact, they meet the traits of businesses operating in this category. For instance, the use of harmful materials would be one indicator that would prompt them to comply with the requirements for this category.
Prescriptive Measures under the New Resolution
Minimum Framework for All Environments
Under the new framework, all employers are required to implement these measures:
Employers should have a written policy that stipulates expectations of employees and its priorities; identify general processes, as well as liabilities on the employer and individual employees; and specify the various roles of key employees in implementing the policy and reporting duties to Saudi Arabia’s General Organization for Social Insurance about occupational accidents and diseases.
All relevant rules should be made accessible to all employees and published in Arabic and if different, the commonly spoken language at the organization.
While drafting the written policy, employers need to take into account the size, scope, and nature of the business. In order for the policy to be recognized, it needs to be signed by senior management.
– Accountability and Liability
Under the new resolution, as long as an employee, contractor or third-party involved with the organization is on the premises, employers will be held responsible for all of them. At the same time, employees also have some individual responsibilities and liabilities which they need to be aware of.
In addition, employers are required to create a specific management team that is responsible for the health and safety of their employees. Once the management team is formed, employers need to make employees aware of the specific team they should address their issues to. The specific duties of the management team responsible for implementing the framework include:
- Creating and implementing regulation procedures surrounding occupational health and safety.
- Regular reviewing of the effectiveness of procedures implemented.
- Periodic submission of reports on the regulation of the framework to all departments
- Ensuring the participation of all members of the organization in the implementation of the framework
- Report on the health and safety conditions to all levels of the business
-Efficiency and Training
Training procedures on health and safety issues must be made available to all employees. In order to avoid any exclusion, the training must be carried out during official working hours and in a common language understood by all.
-Regular Review and Assessment of Health and Safety
Periodic appraisals and evaluations on the business environment should be carried out. Only a well-qualified staff member, who can adequately assess the employer’s compliance with the laws, should carry out the reviews.
-Preventive and Control Measures
Any risks identified in assessments should be eliminated or managed through the implementation of specific processes. Any new preventive measures implemented need to be reviewed regularly.
Special Duties for Higher Risk Environments
Along with the minimum framework, employers running their business in medium and high-risk environments also need to focus on the following:
Employers need to keep a record of any and all illnesses, injuries, and accidents acquired within the area of operation. Additionally, they need to keep records of any health risks employees are exposed to and create specific measures to combat them. Employees must be given access to all these records.
-Practice Employee Inclusivity
All employees need to be included in safety and health processes. They should be consulted when identifying the risks in the workplace and included in the development of guidelines and policies.A task force made up of employees should also be created and paired with senior management in order to work on the occupational health and safety issues.
-Implement Systems of Communication
Employers should inform their employees on any news or developments concerning the health and safety in the organization. Newsletters containing training information should be regularly distributed and safety signs and posters should be put up in hazardous areas.
-Strategic Development of Occupational Safety and Health Processes
A written list of prioritized objectives together with an effective plan of action should be developed so as to ensure that the organization is meeting all of their goals steered towards ensuring health and safety within the business. The objectives identified need to be specific, measurable, realistic, and achievable. This will help facilitate regular assessments on the safety standards implemented.
Saudi Arabia is taking very seriously their new focus on occupational health and safety and the Ministry urges all employers affected to comply. Employers in all environments are required to work within the new framework. Failure to do so will result in fines, penalties or worse, dissolving of the organization.