The increase in awareness about the rights of people of the working class has led to growth and wide acceptance of the concept of 'occupational health and safety' which is required for moral and legal reasons but also for financial reasons. Health and safety of workers in any professions or occupation is essential to increase their efficiency and productivity. Occupational health and safety which is also referred as OHS puts a duty on the Employer to ensure the safety of all employees working for him and associated with his establishment against all occupational hazards. Occupational diseases are the diseases that a worker becomes victim of due to the nature of work that he undertakes. It is a part of the occupational hazards.
Due to the awareness spread against occupational diseases and the efforts of the ILO (International Labor Organization) to protect the workers from such hazards, most countries including the United Arab Emirates have drafted laws to protect and provide for safety measures by the Employer for the prevention of occupational diseases. The regulation of labor relations law which is the federal law no. 8 of 1980 (hereinafter known as 'the law') has such measures enumerated within itself. The present article discusses the measure that the employer needs to take in order to ensure the safety of the workers from occupational hazards and diseases and the responsibilities of the employee towards a worker in case the worker is diagnosed of an occupational disease.
As a part of the safety measures against occupational diseases the law creates a duty on the employer to provide the workers with adequate protection means against the hazards of occupational injuries and diseases that may take place during the work. The measures are as listed below:
1. The first measure that the Employer is supposed to take is regarding awareness. The workers should be made aware about the occupational hazards and diseases that he is exposed to during work. The Employer must at a prominent place of the work site display detailed directions related to the measures taken for the prevention of fire and the protection of workers from the hazards that they may face during their performance of their work. Such instructions shall appear in Arabic language and in other languages that the workers understand as it is necessary that all the workers should understand the instructions.
2. The Employer is under duty to appoint physicians for a complete health checkup and to examine for the symptoms of occupational diseases every six months. The results of such examinations are to be recorded by the employer. The labor department is to be notified if the symptoms of any occupational diseases appear in the examination reports of any worker.
3. The employer is to provide the workers with the medical care means in accordance with the standards determined by the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, and in conjunction with the Minister of Health.
4. The employer is also duty bound to adopt all other safety measures set by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. The worker is to be provided with safety gear and clothing for the purpose of protection from hazards.
5. Apart from this, the employer also has to provide for first aid facilities for the workers. The cleanliness and ventilation of the work place should be as per the standards of the Ministry of Health. Also proper lighting, drinking water and hygienic sanitary facilities are to be maintained at the work place by the employer.
Schedule no. 1 of the law provides for a list of occupational diseases which includes Poisoning by lead and its compounds, Poisoning by mercury and its compounds, Poisoning by arsenic and its compounds, Poisoning by antimony and its components, Poisoning by phosphor and its compounds, Poisoning by petroleum, its products, compounds and by – products, Poisoning by manganese and its compounds, Poisoning by sulfur minerals and its compounds, Poisoning by petroleum, its gazes, compounds and by – products, Poisoning by chloroform and carbonic tetrachloride, Disease arising from radium or radioactive substances (x – rays), Chronic skin diseases, skin and eye burns, Damage caused to the eye by reason of heat and light and the complications thereof, Lung diseases resulting from Silica Dust, Asbestos (Asbestos dust) or cotton dust, Anthrax, Edema, Tuberculosis and Typhoid Fever.
The law further provides for compensatory reliefs for the worker onbeing diagnosed with a occupational disease. The first relief the employer is supposed to provide is medical care. The employer is to bear all expenses for the treatment of the worker in a governmental or private local medical center until the worker recovers or his proved by the medical examinations to be disabled. Such treatment shall include costs of hospitalization or stay at a sanatorium, surgeries, x – rays and medical analyzes, medicines and rehabilitation equipment, and the supply of artificial limbs and other prosthetic appliances when disability is established. The employer is also required to bear all costs of transportation in the process of the treatment.
In the event where the worker is not able to work due to the injury of disease, the employer is to pay him an allowance that is equal to a full wage for the entire period of treatment, or for a period of six months where the period of treatment is more than six months. The allowance is to be reduced by half for the period following the six months or until the worker fully recovers, is declared disabled, or dies.
The Law provides for compensation in event of partial disability of the worker in a permanent manner. In such cases a schedule is provided with the law where the amount of compensation is provided according to the type and degree of disability.
In case of permanent and complete disability the compensation to be provided is similar to the compensation provided in the case of death of an employee due to the occupational hazard or disease. In case of death the family of the worker is provided with the compensation. Members of family who are provided with the compensation are the persons in the family who are totally or mainly dependent on the deceased worker. The beneficiaries thus include the following:
1. The widow (s).
2. The children, namely:
a. Sons under 17 years of age, under 24 years of age regularly enrolled in academic institutions, and sons who are mentally or physically incapacitated in such an extent that they are unable to earn their own living. The term "sons" shall include the sons of the husband or the wife dependent on the deceased worker at the time of his death.
b. Unmarried daughters including also unmarried daughters of the husband or the wife dependent on the deceased worker at the time of his death.
3. The parents.
4. The siblings in accordance with the conditions set for the sons and daughters.
The amount of compensation awarded in case of death of a worker is equal to the basic wage of the worker for a period of 24 months. There is a minimum limit set to this compensation amount which is eighteen thousand dirhams and the maximum limit is set to thirty five thousand Dirhams. The last wage of the worker is to be considered while calculating the basic wage.
Such compensations shall not be provided to the worker in the following cases:
1. The worker intentionally gets injured in order to commit suicide.
2. The worker intentionally gets injured to receive compensation amount.
3. The worker intentionally gets injured for the sick leaves.
4. At the time of the accident the worker is under the influence of alcohol or narcotic drugs.
5. The worker intentionally breached the safety instructions of the employer.
6. The worker is injured due to his gross misconduct.
7. Refusal, without valid cause, by the worker to undergo periodical medical examination to diagnose for occupational disease.