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Governmental Decree Stipulates Safe & Healthy Workplaces

Source: Vientiane Times

Workers have the legal right to require their employers to ensure occupational health and safety, a new governmental decree stipulates.

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith inked the decree on labour safety and health earlier this month. The 22-page decree, which was published in the Official Gazette on February 25, comes into effect 15 days after publication.

Employees can submit petitions to labour management agencies to intervene if their employers do not improve the workplace environment to meet health and safety standards in line with workers’ requests.

Labourers also have the right to reject a job assigned by their employers if the work is deemed to be highly risky or dangerous, according to the decree’s Article 8.

The decree gives employees the right to receive information or knowledge concerning any risky or dangerous conditions, and to be informed of precautionary measures that would avoid risks and dangers.

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Deputy Director General of the Labour Protection Department of the Lao Federation of Trade Unions, Thongphim Vonglapha, welcomed the decree, saying it provided comprehensive guidance on ensuring a safe and healthy working environment.

“The content of the Labour Law regarding health and safety is too broad. The decree, which has more and clearer details, is needed to implement the law,” Mr Thongphim told Vientiane Times yesterday.

He added that a number of workers in Laos suffer from workplace accidents and occupational illnesses every year.

Many workplaces need to undergo improvements to ensure their working environments meet health and safety standards, especially smaller businesses. “Workers in many places suffer from too much heat and noise,” Mr Thongphim said.

Director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Country Office for Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, Graeme Buckley, has said that although the Lao economy is growing, unsafe working conditions continue to expose farm and factory workers to significant hazards and risks in both domestic and export-oriented sectors.

“These unsafe conditions can cause human suffering through workplace accidents, injuries and diseases, and can also impact negatively on a business’ production and productivity,” the ILO director was quoted as saying on the ILO website. Lao officials say businesses should not view the new decree, which requires all businesses to provide a safe and healthy working environment, as something that will create problems.

Rather, it will promote a healthy working environment and boost productivity. Providing a safe and healthy working environment will also enable businesses to more easily access high-end markets whose governments take such issues into account before importing goods.

The new decree also gives employers the right to require workers to strictly comply with safety and health guidelines imposed at workplaces.