We have decided to take a break from bookkeeping topics, but still write about something that is expected from the accountant to know. Accountants are not safety officers (meaning, they are not responsible for occupational health and safety of clients they keep books for) but here is a chance to inform the accountants (and their clients) on what is necessary to know, if they wish to offer full services to their clients.
Why is this a topic that does not cause too much attention with a common reader ?
OHS, Risk Assessment, OHS Rulebook, records, OHS Officer, employee training, personal protection means... There are a lot of doubts if you have ever come across these terms. If not, the question arises: „What is it?“, with plain response: „Some terminology that I do not understand, that is not complete and I do not need....“ But, is that really so? Let's try to clarify the basics…
First: in order to be a successful employer, to need an extraordinary amount of energy to manage everything. And a lot of patience. Naturally, there is a large portion of obligations that you as an employer must meet towards your employees where such obligations are prescribed, among others, by the Law on Occupational Health and Safety ("Official Gazette RS", no. 101/2005 and 91/2015), (hereinafter referred to as the: law).
This law prescribes rights and obligations of employers and employees, method of organizing occupational health and safety activities, keeping records, inspections and similar.
If your business is office based, we recommend skipping the next passage, but, if you operate in the field, all we can say is…
OHS is an abbreviation meaning the initial letters of the area “Occupational Health and Safety”. Pursuant to the law, article 4. paragraph 1. item 4: “Occupational health and safety includes securing such conditions at work that, to the largest possible scale, reduce injuries at work, professional diseases and diseases related to work that create overall presumptions for full physical, mental and social wellbeing of employees.”
Risk Assessment is a document in writing that must be prepared by each employer by law; Article 13. paragraph 1: “Employer is obligated to adopt a Risk Assessment in written form for all jobs in the working environment and to determine the method and measures for its mitigation.”
OHS Officer is a professional managing OHS. The person must be adequately qualified and must hold a license for OHS (Article 56 of the law). The task of the OHS Officer is
Despite the fact the “Risk Assessment” is mandatory for all employers regardless of the number of employees, OHS activities are organized differently depending on the business activity of the employer and the number of employees.
The main “motivation” for employers to act in the field of OHS is the aforementioned law, that is the supervision based on the law by competent persons. Here, the employers usually think “Supervision will skip me…”. The lucky ones never actually get “visitors”, but, if it happens, the consequences may be stunning. The fines are very high. For example, they are in the range from RSD 800.000-1.000.000 for employees classified as legal entities (Article 69. paragraph 1. of the law), and RSD 400.000-500.000 din. for entrepreneurs (Article 69.paragraph 2. of the law)
In addition to financial benefit in the form of fines not paid, there is a series of other benefits you secure by regulating occupational health and safety in your company.
A good bookkeeping agency is familiar with the basis of the Law on OHS, even though it is not its responsibility. You can rely on them for this issue and receive proper information and advice.
For example, if you are an employer with less than 20 employees, and you are not involved in production, you are able to perform OHS activities yourself and the only obligation that would produce costs would be the preparation of the Risk Assessment. Therefore, you become a responsible person that is obligated to be familiar with the Law on Occupational Health and Safety and other OHS regulations and to act accordingly. Of course, if you cannot spare time, you can set an external person and release yourself from the obligation of reading the law, rules, etc.
If you are an employer with over 20 employees, you have an obligation, in addition to Risk Assessment, to determine a responsible person that will manage OHS. Additionally, if you are into production, regardless of the number of employees, you are obligated to hire a licensed individual.
From the economic perspective, on employer level, the costs may be divided into two groups.
All of this imposes deeper review of OHS and its introduction into the business system...
The largest deficiency is underdeveloped awareness with employers on the complexity, significance and benefits arising from full and proper OHS activities. Risk Assessment missing is just one of the violations that draw significant fines. Each injury of the employee costs significantly more that the tasks related to the organization of OHS at the place of work and in the working environment.
Road to success is not easy, but we need to start somewhere. Surely, risk assessment is the first step to take in this area, and then later, when all comes into place, the final result is a safe and healthy work place and increased productivity of employees.