Agents and work processes that pose a particular risk to life or health
Determining the degree of harmfulness of materials
Materials and technological processes cannot be used without first determining the degree of their harmfulness to workers’ health and applying appropriate preventive measures.
Rules for the use of chemical substances and mixtures
The use of the following chemical substances and mixtures is not permitted:
- dangerous substances, dangerous mixtures, hazardous substances or hazardous mixtures without a current inventory of these substances and mixtures and safety data sheets, as well as packaging offering protection against their harmful effects, fire or explosion;
- chemical substances and their mixtures not labelled in a visible manner so that they can be clearly identified.
Dangerous substances, dangerous mixtures, hazardous substances or hazardous mixtures may be used if measures are applied to protect workers’ lives and health.
Rules for classifying chemical substances and their mixtures according to risks to life or health, a list of hazardous chemical substances, requirements for safety data sheets and the way in which they are labelled are set out in separate provisions. These include:
- Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures, amending and repealing Directives 67/548/EEC and 1999/45/EC, and amending Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006
- Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), establishing a European Chemicals Agency, amending Directive 1999/45/EC and repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No 793/93 and Commission Regulation (EC) No 1488/94 as well as Council Directive 76/769/EEC and Commission Directives 91/155/EEC, 93/67/EEC, 93/105/EC and 2000/21/EC
- Act of 25 February 2011 on chemical substances and their mixtures
Exposure to carcinogenic and mutagenic agents
If workers are exposed to carcinogenic or mutagenic chemical substances, their mixtures, agents or technological processes, employers must replace these substances, their mixtures, agents or technological processes with ones less harmful to health or apply other available measures reducing exposure, making appropriate use of scientific and technological achievements.
Employers must register all types of work involving contact with carcinogenic or mutagenic chemical substances, their mixtures, agents or technological processes and maintain a register of workers performing such work.
- a list of carcinogenic or mutagenic chemical substances, their mixtures, agents or technological processes and the way in which they are to be registered;
- the way in which registers of types of work involving contact with carcinogenic or mutagenic chemical substances, their mixtures, agents or technological processes are to be maintained;
- the way in which registers of workers performing such work are to be maintained;
- model documents concerning workers’ exposure to carcinogenic or mutagenic chemical substances, their mixtures, agents or technological processes and the way in which these documents are to be stored and submitted to entities responsible for identifying or recognising occupational diseases;
- detailed conditions for the protection of workers against risks caused by carcinogenic or mutagenic chemical substances, their mixtures, agents or technological processes;
- the conditions and procedure for monitoring the health of workers exposed to carcinogenic or mutagenic chemical substances, their mixtures, agents or technological processes.
Exposure to harmful biological agents
If workers are exposed to harmful biological agents, employers must apply all available measures to eliminate the exposure and, if this is not possible, to reduce this exposure, making appropriate use of scientific and technological achievements.
Employers must maintain a register of types of work involving exposure to harmful biological agents and a register of workers performing such work.
The Regulation of the Minister for Health of 22 April 2005 on biological agents harmful to health in the working environment and the protection of the health of workers occupationally exposed to these agents sets out:
- the classification and list of harmful biological agents;
- a list of types of work involving exposure to biological agents;
- detailed conditions for the protection of workers against risks posed by harmful biological agents, including the types of measures necessary to protect the lives and health of workers exposed to these agents, the scope of application of these measures, and the conditions and procedure for monitoring the health of the exposed workers;
- the way in which registers of types of work and workers are to be maintained, stored and submitted to entities responsible for identifying or recognising occupational diseases.
Protection against ionising radiation
Employers must protect workers against ionising radiation from artificial and natural sources present in the working environment. The ionising radiation dose from natural sources received by a worker exposed to this radiation cannot exceed dose limits specified in separate provisions for artificial sources of ionising radiation (the Cabinet Regulation of 18 January 2005 on dose limits for ionising radiation).
Obligation to prevent dangers to life and health
Employers engaged in activities as part of which a sudden danger may occur to workers’ lives or health must apply measures to prevent such danger. In such cases, employers must ensure that:
- rescue equipment appropriate for the type of danger is used by duly trained persons;
- first aid is provided to injured persons.
Mandatory application of safety measures
Employers must ensure that the types of work which could pose a particular risk to human life or health are performed by at least two persons as a safety measure. A list of these types of work is determined by employers, in consultation with workers or their representatives, taking into account provisions issued under Article 23715 of the Labour Code.
Employers must consult all measures related to occupational health and safety with workers or their representatives, including changes in work organisation and equipment at workstations and the introduction of new technological processes and chemical substances and their mixtures if they may pose a risk to workers’ lives or health.
Safety of third parties
If work is performed in a place accessible to persons not involved in the work process, employers must apply measures necessary to protect these persons’ lives and health.
Use of safety signals
Where necessary, safety signals should be used to direct persons performing work that poses a risk – manual or verbal signals, in accordance with the requirements of Annex 1 to the Regulation of the Minister for Labour and Social Policy of 26 September 1997 on the general rules of occupational health and safety.
Single-person workrooms – reporting
In cases in which a single person works in a workroom where workers’ lives or health may be endangered in an emergency situation due to, in particular, risks such as fire, explosion, electrocution and release of gases or vapours of substances classified as hazardous, employers must instruct such persons to report in an agreed way at specified times. Employers should determine the types of these workrooms as well as the way in which workers are to report and the procedure to be followed if they do not report.
Information, manuals and OHS checks
Information on existing risks
Employers must inform workers about existing risks, especially those against which they will be protected by personal protective equipment and provide information on this equipment and on its use. Detailed rules for the use of personal protective equipment are set out in Annex 2 to the Regulation of the Minister for Labour and Social Policy of 26 September 1997 on the general rules of occupational health and safety.
Occupational health and safety manuals
Employers must make available to workers for permanent use up-to-date occupational health and safety manuals concerning:
- the technological processes used at establishments and the performance of work that carries a risk of accidents or a risk to workers’ health;
- the handling of machines and other technical devices;
- the handling of materials harmful to health and hazardous materials;
- the provision of first aid.
The manuals should specify, in a way that is understandable to workers, steps to be taken before starting the work concerned, safe work rules and procedures, steps to be taken after the work is completed and rules to be followed in emergency situations in which workers’ lives or health is endangered. Manuals for work involving the use of hazardous chemical substances and mixtures should include information contained in the safety data sheets of these substances and mixtures.
Occupational health and safety checks
Employers must ensure that regular occupational health and safety checks are conducted – with a special focus on the organisation of work processes and the technical condition of machines and other technical devices – and determine how to register irregularities and eliminate them. If a direct threat to workers’ lives or health is identified, persons managing workers must immediately halt work and take measures to eliminate this threat.
Technical changes and occupational health and safety assessments
Changes in technological processes, design changes in technical devices and changes in the way in which facilities are used should be preceded by an occupational health and safety assessment in a manner determined by employers.
First aid system
Employers must provide a well-functioning system of first aid in the event of an accident and first aid measures to workers. In particular, employers should provide:
- first-aid centres in sections (branches) in which work involving a high risk of accidents or involving release of vapours, gases or dust of substances classified as hazardous due to high toxicity is performed;
- first-aid kits in individual sections (branches) of establishments.
The number and location of the first-aid centres and first-aid kits and their equipment and contents respectively should be determined in consultation with preventive care physicians looking after workers, taking into account the types and intensity of existing risks. On each shift, the centres and first-aid kits should be administered by designated workers, trained in first aid.
Instructions on how to give first aid in the event of an accident and lists of the workers referred to above should be put up in the first-aid centres and next to the first-aid kits in visible places. The first-aid centres and the places where the first-aid kits are located should be appropriately marked in accordance with the Polish standard and easily accessible.
Noise protection measures
Employers must ensure that workers are protected from risks associated with exposure to noise and, in particular, ensure the application of:
- technological processes that do not generate excessive noise;
- machines and other technical devices causing as little noise as possible, not exceeding the permissible noise levels;
- solutions reducing noise level in work processes.
The permissible noise levels in the working environment are set out in relevant provisions and Polish standards.
Protection of workstations against noise
At workstations where the noise level exceeds the acceptable standards in spite of the application of possible technical and organisational solutions, employers must:
- determine why the permissible noise levels have been exceeded and develop and implement a programme of technical and organisational measures to effectively reduce workers’ exposure to noise;
- provide workers with personal hearing protectors appropriate for the noise characteristics and workers’ personal characteristics and ensure that they are used;
- limit noise exposure time, including by introducing breaks;
- mark noise hazard zones and, where justified by the degree of risk and feasible, limit access to these zones by fencing them off.
Requirements for the protection of the health of workers exposed to noise as part of their work are set out in separate provisions (in the Regulation of the Minister for the Economy and Labour of 5 August 2005 on occupational health and safety procedures for work involving exposure to noise or mechanical vibration).
Offences against workers’ rights relating to OHS
Those who fail to comply with occupational health and safety provisions or rules while being responsible for occupational health and safety or managing workers or other natural persons, are subject to a penalty from PLN 1 000 to PLN 30 000.
The same penalty is imposed on those who, contrary to their duties, use:
- materials and technological processes without first determining the degree of their harmfulness to workers’ health and without applying appropriate preventive measures;
- chemical substances and their mixtures not labelled in a visible manner so that they can be clearly identified;
- dangerous substances, dangerous mixtures, hazardous substances or hazardous mixtures which do not have safety data sheets or packaging offering protection against their harmful effects, fire or explosion.