Occupational safety plan must for Saudi firms with more than 49 workers

Ensure compliance with National Strategic Program for Occupational Safety and Health

Starting June, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development has begun inspecting companies that employ more than 49 people to ensure their compliance with the National Strategic Program for Occupational Safety and Health (OSH).

This was announced by Ali Al-Ghamdi, general manager for the development of work environment at the ministry's branch in Makkah province, while addressing representatives of the private sector companies at a workshop held at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

All companies will be required to have an occupational safety policy to organize work, he said, adding violating any the regulations will result in a fine of SR10,000.

There are about 4,000 big companies, 27,000 medium-scale establishments and thousands of smaller firms operating in the Kingdom, but Al-Ghamdi said only companies with 49 employees and more will fall within the ambit of inspections in the first stage.

According to the official, the ministry had held an awareness campaign over the past two months to inform the companies about this new OSH system and had organized workshops in different Saudi cities. The ministry, he said, has also prepared OSH templates that the companies may fill in.

The current obligatory OSH involves implementing an occupational safety and health strategy. However by the end of this year another framework will be put forward to indicate the technical rules that companies should implement including noise, heat, lighting and personal safety regulations among others. "The framework is now being finalized in cooperation with the Saudi Arabian Standards Organization and the private sector representatives," said Al-Ghamdi.

He stated that there was an absence of safety systems at local companies and only a few big companies maintained safety standards. He said the ministry would implement the system gradually in coming years based on the number of employees in each company.

Prior to the implementation of the system, the ministry has considered the best practices applied in US, UK, the UAE, Turkey, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Canada for occupational safety.

Al-Ghamdi said the ministry however had not applied a particular system from any of these countries but it had tailored its own system to suit the local market.

The system aims to increase the attractiveness of the workplace, spread precautionary culture, enhance the importance of applying OSH regulations and principles, and motivate employers and workers to adopt an attractive, safe and healthy work environment, Al-Ghamdi said.

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