BULGARIAN COMPANIES ARE FAR FROM MEETING EUROPEAN SAFETY STANDARDS
Bulgarian enterprises need to make EUR10-12BN investments in order to meet the requirements of the European directives on safe and health labour conditions, the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA)calculated. Expenses in the construction business are quite high, because the safety of new labour grounds needs to be constantly ensured. Chemical enterprises alone will have to invest at least EUR2BN in order to meet the requirements of the Law on Health and Safe Labour Conditions and to meet the European standards.According to the figures, none of the 56 major chemical plants across the country has harmonized completely its labour conditions with the legislative requirements. Only a few of the big foreign companies come close to the European norms. The reduction of the tax on profit to 15% in 2005 will leave about BGN200MN in the companies that may be used for meeting the requirements. Bank credits and the pre-joining funds are the other sources of additional financial resource for introduction of the European standards and rules. According to the National Statistics Institute, about BGN7-8BN on average is invested in improvement of the labour conditions in Bulgaria every year.According to BIA experts, companies with more than 50 employees have already prepared programs to improve their working environment. However, observing the requirements of the law appears a serious challenge to the financial stability of smaller companies. At the same time, they employ half of the Bulgarian workers, the BIA Deputy Chairman Dikran Tebean commented. He said that the Government should provide tax preferences for entrepreneurs who introduce new safer production technologies. A more relieved procedure for importing modern equipment should be considered too, he added.Experts claim that there is a growing number of companies that have estimated the risk at the workplace. As to firms that inspect the labour medicine, however, their work has not been so useful. Most frequently, these firms act fictitiously and neither inspect the labour conditions nor instruct how they should be improved. There are also problems in how they serve small enterprises. They often refuse to sign contracts with them, because they have no economic interest in doing so.Experts in the labour medicine offices can express an opinion on how a certain production impacts people's health, but cannot consult entrepreneurs about how to ensure technical safety, BIA experts comment. That's why engineers should be included in these offices, too, they recommend.About 35% of the violations of labour conditions found by the Chief Labour Inspection are related to implementation of the labour safety norms. The inspectors remind that the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy provides entrepreneurs with up to 20% of the money they need to meet the legal requirements. To qualify, companies are required to present a plan for modernisation of their production.