Health & Safety in Bahrain 2020
1. What is the main legislation governing health and safety in this jurisdiction?
The primary legislation governing health and safety in Bahrain is the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (OHS) which were introduced in 1976. These were broadly based on the UK Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974. This legislation constitutes 30 Ministerial Orders, the latest of which were passed in 2006 and 2005, but the majority of which are dated from 1976 or 1977. Since 2000, new Orders have been passed to cover first aid in the workplace, the medical examination of workers, the protection of workers from fire hazards and reporting procedures for occupational injuries and diseases.
The 1976 Labour Law for the Private Sector promulgated by Bahrain Decree-Law No. 23/1976 is the overarching labour law, with Articles 91 to 97 relating to the general health and safety duties of employers. The Labour Inspection Department was established under this Law.
2. What are the main differences between health & safety legislation in this jurisdiction and other major jurisdictions?
Although Bahrain's health and safety regulations are increasingly tough, Bahraini law does not carry the weight of the UK Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 on which it is based, in terms of extent or enforcement. It is one thing to bring in legislation,but another to get organisations to comply with it.
Unless faced with serious accidents, those who run organisations in Bahrain do not pay much pre-emptive attention to the implications of accidents, or their prevention. There is a rather conspicuous trend of production-driven businesses, such as those in construction, manufacturing, the car industry and even the education sector, of not placing safety as the top priority.
Another deficiency is that health and safety inspectors often have little specialist knowledge. The Government invests little in their development and there are only six to eight health and safety inspectors in the country with a population of one million.
Increasing legislation has created a need for more safety professionals in Bahrain. There is now a legal requirement that any organisation employing more than 50 people must have someone who is responsible for safety regardless of the industry.
3. What are the main bodies responsible for health and safety monitoring, regulation and prosecution? What are their key powers?
The primary body is the Supreme Safety Committee which is part of the Labour Ministry and is responsible for health and safety strategy in all industrial sectors, large companies and the Health, Environment, and Civil Defence Ministries. The Committee makes recommendations to the Government, such as on revising current legislation, and the need for a single Government agency, similar to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK, to develop safety strategy and propose and enforce legislation.
4. Following an accident or a fatality - what reporting is required? What investigations may follow?
Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 12/2013 governs the procedures required to report occupational injuries and diseases. Under Article 3 of Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 12/2013, an employer in any establishment, branch or workplace has to notify the Labour Ministry of any injury which results in the death of a worker, a serious injury, any injury which results in the worker's absence from work for seven successive days, or vehicle accidents which occur in the establishment or workplace.
Under Article 5 of Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 12/2013, an employer will notify the Ministry of any injury or occupational diseases they are aware of in ten days from the date of notification. Under Article 7 of Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 12/2013 a worker must also notify the Labour Ministry in writing of any employment injury suffered by them which has resulted in a serious injury or an occupational disease.
Under Article 8 of Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 12/2013, the Ministry will conduct a technical investigation of occupational accidents, injuries and diseases.
5. What are the main industries with specific health and safety regimes? What are the key laws and regulations covering those regimes? And who are the monitoring and enforcement bodies?
All industrial sectors and large companies in the region have to have a health and safety regime in place. The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulations in Bahrain, which were introduced in 1976, is the primary piece of legislation regulating health and safety regimes in the country.
The primary monitoring and enforcing body is the Supreme Safety Committee of Bahrain's Labour Ministry, which is responsible for health and safety strategy in all industrial sectors, large companies and the Health, Environment, and Civil Defence Ministries.
6. What are the core health and safety records companies must keep?
Under Article 13 of Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 12/2013, an employer will keep a special register in which copies of the occupational injuries and diseases forms which have been reported in line with the provisions of this Order will be deposited, provided these forms are retained for at least five years.
7. What are the main rules governing work in extreme temperatures? What steps do companies have to take to prevent prosecution? What penalties are there for failure to comply?
Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 24/2017 with respect to Banning the Employment of Workers in the Construction Sector during the Sun and in Open Areas between 12pm and 4pm is the key piece of legislation in the country. Article 1 of Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 24/2017 states workers whose work requires them to work under the sun and in open areas will be prohibited from working during the 12pm to 4pm during July and August every year.
The sole exception to Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 24/2017 applies to employees working in the oil and gas sector, in addition to emergency maintenance workers, provided an employer takes the necessary precautions to protect them from heat damage.
Any one who violates the provisions of this order will be penalised in line with Article 192 of Bahrain Law No. 36/2012 (the Labour Law for the Private Sector). Articles 52 and 53 o Bahrain Law No. 36/2012 further safeguard their well-being by stating they are not to work nights and for more than six hours a day.
8. What are the main rules protecting the health and safety of women or young people? What steps do companies have to take to prevent prosecution? What penalties are there for failure to comply?
To protect the health and safety of juveniles, Bahraini labour law has devoted Chapter 8 to the employment of juveniles. Article 51 states the employment of juveniles will be allowed in industries, other than those considered to be hazardous or unhealthy, in line with an Order made by the Health Minister in agreement with the Labour and Social Affairs Minister.
Chapter 9 of the labour law safeguards the health and safety of women employed in the country. Article 59 states no woman can be employed between 8pm and 7am and Article 60 states it is prohibited to employ any woman in industries or occupations which are dangerous or unhealthy for their unborn child.
9. What are the main rules governing work at heights or confined spaces? What steps do companies have to take to prevent prosecution? What penalties are there for failure to comply?
The 2005 Work at Heights Regulation provide guidance with regard to considering precautions for working at height. The kind of recommendations this document offers includes the following;
- employers and those in control of any work at height activity must make sure work is properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people.
- Low-risk, relatively straightforward tasks would require less effort if planned. Therefore, employers and those in control must assess the risks first.
- A sensible, pragmatic approach must be taken when considering precautions for working at height. Factors to weigh up include the height of the task, the duration and frequency and the condition of the surface being worked on.
The Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) offers guidance for those who work or control work in confined spaces. This Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) and associated guidance provide practical advice on how you can comply with the requirements of the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 (SI 1997/1713).
10. What are the main rules governing work with dangerous substances, radiation and chemicals? What steps do companies have to take to prevent prosecution? What penalties are there for failure to comply?
Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 9/2014 with regard to the Protection of Workers from Physical Hazards states an employer will protect their workers from radiation-exposing hazards by adopting proper means such as;
- the isolation of radiation sources from other working places and production processes whenever practically possible, and
- the establishment of protective barriers designated to absorb or reduce heat, radiations,
- the provision of adequate ventilation and suitable environmental improvement means.
11. Are there any rules governing 'manual handling' of heavy goods? What steps do companies have to take to prevent prosecution? What penalties are there for failure to comply?
Under Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 38/2014, with respect to determining the required conditions and the precautionary measures for the protection of workers from mechanical hazards and work environment, a worker will not operate work equipment which is not supplied with proper precautionary means and will not disable and stop whatever protection available to them. They will report any defect or technical fault in the equipment or machines which may subject them to danger and will follow the warning directions and given instructions to preserve their safety and protection against work hazards. (Article 2)
Article 15 of Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 38/2014 states explicitly a worker may not be asked to lift, transfer or move a heavy load suspected to cause any injury to them.
12. Are there any rules governing working time - from a health and safety perspective? What steps do companies have to take to prevent prosecution? What penalties are there for failure to comply?
Under Article 53 of the Bahrain Labour Law, the worker may not be effectively employed for more than eight hours a day unless otherwise agreed, provided the effective working hours do not exceed ten hours a day.
The working hours and rest periods are to be regulated in a way which ensures no workers are present at the workplace for more than eleven hours a day. This is calculated from the time of entering the place until they leave. The rest period will be calculated as part of the hours during which the worker is present at the workplace in case the work requires them to be present in the workplace.
13. What rights and duties do employees have to report health and safety breaches?
Under Article 121 of the Labour Law, if a worker sustains an injury by accident arising out of or in the course of their employment, the relevant employer will have to notify the occurrence of the accident within 24 hours to
- the police station in the area where the accident occurred;
- the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry; and
- the Health Ministry.
14. What rights and duties do employers have to report health and safety breaches?
With regard to employment and occupational injuries, Article 121 states the relevant worker may notify the occurrence of the accident if their condition allows them to do so. The notification will have to include the worker's name, their occupation, address, nationality and wages on the date of the accident together with a brief description of the circumstances involved and the measures taken for first-aid or medical treatment.
15. Are premises required to meet fire standards? Is there a registration and inspection regime in place in this area?
Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 6/2013 deals with the protection of workers from fire hazards in establishments and work sites in Bahrain. Under Article 5 of Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 6/2013, an employer will conduct an evaluation of the fire hazards at the work sites in the establishment and will take all the necessary measures and precautions to reduce the hazards of fire to the minimum level.
Article 7 of Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 6/2013 requires adequate and suitable fire-fighting facilities will be provided and maintained at all work sites by the employer. It will be prohibited for any employer to use any work site except on obtaining a 'fire safety certificate' from the relevant authority.
Under Article 8 of Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 6/2013, every year, an employer will entrust a qualified person to undertake the inspection of fire-fighting facilities at least once, provided the date of inspection, date of subsequent maintenance and name of the person who has carried out the inspection will be marked for the records. The fitness of the alarm systems meant for this sole purpose will be examined by a qualified person at least once every three months and the inspection results will be entered in a special register which will be maintained in the establishment.
16. Are there specific rules around noise, vibration and lighting? What steps do companies have to take to prevent prosecution? What penalties are there for failure to comply?
Under Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 9/2014, with respect to the protection of workers from natural hazards at establishments, an employer will protect their workers from the hazards of being exposed to intense lighting by adopting the proper means which secure their protection and reduce exposure to it (Article 8).
With regard to noise protection, Article 4 of Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 9/2014 states an employer is responsible for taking the necessary measures by providing suitable ear protecting gear and others for the workers to reduce the noise resulting from using these devices, machines and equipment in the worksite.
Under Article 5 of Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 9/2014, the employer will protect their workers from being subject to the hazards of vibrations by adopting proper methods to secure their protection and reduce being exposed to it, by adopting methods which include;
- the supply of good vibration and movement dampers to stop the vibration of the entire worker's body,
- continuous maintenance of machines and tools to prevent the increase of their emitting vibrations, and
- the provision of personal protective and vibration reduction clothing and equipment.
17. Where is the best place to discover if protective clothing may be required in specific work environments?
Wherever there are risks to health and safety in an industry which cannot be adequately controlled in other ways, the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 require an industry to supply personal protective equipment. These Regulations also require this equipment is properly assessed before use to make sure it is fit for purpose, maintained and stored properly, provided with instructions on how to use it safely and used correctly by employees.
18. Are there any specific rules around working near or with water? What steps do companies have to take to prevent prosecution? What penalties are there for failure to comply?
Bahrain Ministerial Order No. 15/2014 with respect to protecting workers from highly flammable liquids at establishments and worksites refers to water while delineating the meaning of highly flammable liquid is referred to as a chemical substance which, once it gets into contact with water, turns into a highly combustible gas.
19. What are the key laws governing the safety of equipment and machinery? What are the most common breaches in this area? What are the penalties for these?
The Labour Law in Bahrain mandates employers take the necessary precautions to protect their workers from work environment hazards during working hours, which include providing and maintaining safe working equipment which do not constitute a hazard to the workers' safety and health. The employer is tethered by duty to maintain personal protective equipment which is appropriate for the nature of the work. The employer cannot charge workers or deduct any money from their wages in order to provide them with protective facilities and personal protective equipment.
Manufacturers also have to consider the occupational health and safety of the operators of machineries. The machinery will have to be designed in a safe manner, after clear instructions for the use of machines have been set and after the necessary precautions to prevent any danger have been taken and trials and tests to ensure the safety of the machine have been conducted.
20. Are there any specific rules around the transportation of dangerous goods and substances?
The Labour Law includes a clause on the surveillance of the working environment and working practices, which mandate employers ensure safety in the use, lifting and transporting of goods or materials so they do not constitute a hazard to workers' safety and health.
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