Special Labor Protection Fund may appear in Azerbaijan
By Mushvig Mehdiyev
Creating a special fund of labor protection is one of the key directives of Azerbaijan's state strategy on labor protection.
In his comments to the media on April 28, Labor and Social Protection Minister, Salim Muslumov said the ministry has defined the development of a strategy on the protection of labor among the major duties in the 2011-2015 Action Plan on Employment Strategy.
Muslumov said the preliminary project of the labor protection strategy has already been developed and submitted to the government.
"One of the key points here is the establishment of a particular fund for labor protection measures. We think the government should finance the relevant executive bodies through such fund for insuring against industrial accidents and occupational diseases," he added.
Muslumov noted that the mentioned procedures could be financed after directing a certain part of all insurance fees collected by insurance agencies to the labor protection fund.
As for boosting the protection of labor in Azerbaijan, Muslumov said there is a need to increase budget expenditures for labor protection and to attach particular attention to the establishment of preventive measures on labor protection.
He warned employers in the country on the need to recognize the responsibility they take upon in view of protecting the rights of their employees.
"Each employer should know that the money they spend for protecting the labor of employees is not wasted money - rather an investment. It would be possible to prevent industrial accidents if they spend at least 10-15 percent of the money they place in paying compensations to workers injured at work," Muslumov said.
Companies employing more than 50 workers should establish special departments dealing with the issues of labor protection, added the minister.
"Many companies do not create such departments. However, those companies will be fined in accordance with the amendments to be made to the Code of Administrative Offences. Preliminary penalties are planned to be set around 1,000-2,000 manats," Muslumov said.
Labor protection, in general, is a system of the technological, sanitary, hygienic, and legal measures directly aimed at ensuring working conditions that are not harmful to human life and health.
The Labor Code of Azerbaijan thoroughly states that workers have the right to work in safe and healthy conditions. It puts the responsibility on the employers to create safe working conditions for all workers.
But unfortunately industrial accidents happen inevitably in various workplaces throughout Azerbaijan despite strict safety guidelines.
During the first quarter of 2015 the number of accidents across several industrial fields in Azerbaijan decreased by 40 percent to 33 compared to the same indicator registered last year, according to Muslumov.
"The number of work-related deaths reduced by 50 percent to 8 workers, while the number of injuries at work went down by 49 percent to 25 workers over the mentioned period. Furthermore, no mass industrial accidents happened in the same period against ten accidents observed last year," he said.
Muslumov put construction accidents at the very top of all accident-prone sectors in Azerbaijan, adding that the construction field still faces challenges in view of labor protection.
As a result of strict monitoring by the State Labor Inspectorate of Azerbaijan last September, several violations of labor requirements were revealed in construction sites. The main shortcoming was that employers didn't supply their workers with the adequate items of protection -- special uniforms, shoes and helmets.
Eleven different companies were fined and stopped from working due to dangerous working conditions, reported the state inspectors.
Azerbaijan's Labor Code restricts employers from allowing workers to work in open air workplaces when the air temperature is above 45 Celsius in the hot season of the year, and below 14 Celsius in winter. Employers in breach of such requirements are fined and held criminally liable.
Referring to world statistics, Muslumov said that about 153 industrial accidents happen every 15 seconds around the world. "Over 160 million people suffer from occupational diseases worldwide. Nearly 313 million work-related fatalities are registered annually. Industrial accidents cost the world economy $2.8 trillion or one four of GDP."
April 28 is celebrated as a World Day for Safety and Health at Work across the world.
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