Around 1,3 million accidents take place every year in Brazilian offices, companies and factories. Brazil is ranked as the 4th country where people most die from work related accidents, with 2.503 casualties per year.
To reduce this number and to avoid new casualties, the Ministry of Labor has adopted several measures over the years, known as Normas Reguladoras, or regulatory standards.
Some of these rules are generic, and should be applied to every employee and employer in Brazil. Some others are specific to certain activities, materials, practices or types of work environment.
The government body responsible for coordinating, explaining and supervising work conditions is Secretaria de Segurança e Saúde no Trabalho, SSST or Safety and Health at Work, which is a subordinate of the Ministry of Labor. In addition to the Ministry, other entities also demand certifications and safety standards.
An example is the fire department in each city, who are responsible for authorizing a building to be used after it has been constructed, expanded, or simply when there is a change in who is using the facilities. The only exception are buildings where only a single family lives, like houses.
Other examples are associations and federations related to the business being held by the company. There are also specific legislations that vary in each municipality or state.
The regulatory standards from the Brazilian Ministry of Labor are mandatory for every public and private company established in the country, as well as for government bodies and legal entities in general.
It is up to the employer to:
- Monitor the safety and health conditions in the work environment, as stated in the other specific standards
- Communicate to workers any potential risks in the environment and how to avoid them
- Inform employees about results of any exams they were subject to, as well as the results of any evaluations of the working environment
- Communicate to workers practices that can be used to avoid accidents and other risks
- Determine and implement procedures to be adopted in case of accidents or diseases related to work
It is the employee’s obligation to:
- Follow the procedures and orders adopted by the employer to avoid accidents and risks in the work environment
- Use Individual Protection Equipment provided by the employer
- Undergo any required health exams required by the employer
All employers must adopt measures against fire. These measures vary from state to state. As a general rule, companies must provide information on how to use fire safety equipment, fire alarms and how to evacuate the building when necessary.
Facilities must have a minimum number of emergency exits, defined by state legislation, as well as a minimum amount of equipment such as fire extinguishers, hydrants and hoses. Every facility used by companies is subject to a technical analysis by the fire department, which looks at documents and blueprints; and also a technical visit which makes sure that all the exits and the facility itself follow official recommendations.
Conditions in the work environment vary a lot according to the activity being performed. In offices and “environments that demand continuous attention and intellectual effort”, like laboratories and control rooms, the temperature must be between 20 and 23 degrees celsius and the relative humidity can be no higher than 40%.
Also, in Brazil, it is strictly prohibited to smoke in the working environment. Due to recent modifications in the legislation covering this topic, it is no longer permitted to smoke in car parks or open areas; it is therefore necessary to leave the building entirely, going to the street.
There are currently more than 306.000 disabled people employed in Brazil. Although there are no strict laws enforcing companies to provide accessible environments for its employees, they are encouraged to install ramps to enter buildings and rooms, as well as adapt the office and bathrooms for impaired workers.
By law, some companies must dedicate a certain number of positions to people who have suffered accidents or are currently impaired. Any company established in Brazil with more than 100 employees must follow this rule:
- For companies with up to 200 employees, 2% of the positions should be for disabled workers
- Between 201 and 500 employees, 3% of the positions
- Between 501 and 1000 employees, 4% of the positions
- For companies with more than 1001 employees, 5% of the positions must be filled by disabled workers
There is also an effort from the Ministry of Labor and from other entities to prevent discrimination in the working environment. The government claims that companies must promote awareness campaigns to avoid such situations, trying to integrate disabled workers with the rest of the staff in the best possible way.
Companies must offer the same benefits to disabled employees, including salary and bonus payments. Discrimination is considered a crime, punishable with a prison sentence of between one to four years in some circumstances.