February 08 2006
Recent amendments to the Industrial Safety and Health Law and the Regulation on the Industrial Safety and Health Law will become effective on April 1 2006 (some provisions will not take effect until December 1 2006). Under the amendments, the obligation to reduce dangers and hazards that could cause labour accidents is extended, and employers now have duty to care for the health of employees working overtime.
The most important amendment extends the regulations on hazardous substances to dangerous substances.(1) Article 57 of the law defines 'dangerous substances' as those substances designated by the Ordinance on the Implementation of the Industrial Safety and Health Law as potentially dangerous to workers. Dangerous substances include:
The amended law now imposes two obligations on companies transferring or supplying dangerous substances. First, companies must list certain information (eg, ingredients) on containers or packages.(2) Second, companies must provide certain information in writing to those receiving the substances.(3) These obligations will become effective on December 1 2006.
Another important amendment imposes certain obligations on companies contracting work. For example, a company contracting the manufacturing or treatment of dangerous or hazardous substances must notify the contractor in writing of the dangers and hazards related to the substances.(4) Companies must ensure communication and coordination with all subcontractors to prevent labour accidents for both their own employees and subcontractors' employees.(5)
The amended law also requires certain companies to endeavour to research the dangers and hazards associated with structures, equipment, materials, gas, steam, dust and other items in the following circumstances:
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that companies take the measures required under the law, as well as other reasonable measures to protect workers.
Under the law, employers must organize face-to-face consultations with a doctor for all employees who (i) have worked beyond the maximum weekly working hours as specified by the Labour Standards Law (ie, 40 hours per week) by 100 hours per month, and (ii) have been diagnosed with fatigue.(7)
However, under Article 52-3 of the regulation, the duty to provide consultations is triggered only at the request of the employee.
Employers also have an implicit obligation under the Labour Standards Law to keep track of the working hours of all employees, including how many hours employees have worked and how many hours were worked as overtime. Moreover, under the Civil Code employers have an implicit contractual obligation to provide employees with a safe working environment. This obligation includes the duty to protect employees from death by overwork and from suicide caused by mental illness due to overwork.
Employers that organize face-to-face medical consultations for employees must take appropriate measures based on the results of the consultations and the opinion of the doctor. Appropriate measures may include the following:
All companies dealing with dangerous and hazardous substances should familiarize themselves with the amended law and ordinance. Moreover, companies should carefully review the guidelines that are expected to be issued by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
For further information on this topic please contact Yasuhiro Fujii at Baker & McKenzie GJBJ Tokyo Aoyama Aoki Law Office (Gaikokuho Joint Enterprise) by telephone (+81 3 5157 2700) or by fax (+81 3 5157 2900) or by email (email@example.com).
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