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November 24, 2014

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Country profile: safety in Serbia

Serbia, a country that only 15 years ago was under siege from NATO, is now showing aspirations to be part of the European Union. Mark Andrew gives an overview of how the country engages its workforce with health and safety, and the challenges it faces.


In the Republic of Serbia, occupational health and safety comes under the responsibility of Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs. The Ministry includes two administrative bodies active in the subject field, in particular the Occupational Safety and Health Directorate that, among other things, prepares legislation and the other, the Labour Inspectorate, which is the competent body for supervision over its regulatory enforcement.

The Ministry of Labour Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs cooperates directly and constantly with other authorities (ministries responsible for health, environment, mining, etc.), and institutions responsible for health, pension and invalid insurance, as well as with social partners, universities, and others.

Serbian health and safety law has been harmonised with ratified International Labour Organisation Conventions and the European Union Framework Directive 89/391/EEC, as well as with special Directives deriving from the Framework Directive.

The Serbian approach to risk assessment is extremely robust and thorough. The Serbs take a holistic approach and each individual has their own risk assessment tailored to them literally from the moment they step onto company property to the moment they leave.

Each and every task is assessed against the individual’s daily work requirement and is called ‘AKT Risk Assessment on workplace and work environment’. The results of the assessment are clearly communicated to the individual and not only do they sign the document to show that they have read and understood it, but it is also countersigned by the plant manager and the health and safety officer.

This is a specific document named ‘statement 6’. The risk assessment requirement is clearly outlined in Serbian regulation ‘Book of rules on manner and procedure of risk assessment at work place and working environment (“Official Gazette of RS ”, Nos. 72/06 and 84/06-correction).


Of course complying with legislation helps, but in my experience I can only report positively in so much as not only are the Serbs hardworking, but they are willing and open to change. That doesn’t mean that they will just follow instructions like robots and keep their thoughts to themselves but that they will try something new and give you swift constructive feedback if what has been introduced works or not. The Serbs in my experience are keen to learn and also share what good practice they have.

So what is the outcome on safety performance? According to the Serbian Association for Occupational Safety and Health from 2000 to 2009 the number of occupational injuries rose but that may be due to improvement in reporting injuries. On the other hand in the same time span fatalities fell by over 25 per cent and occupational diseases fell by 75 per cent.(1)

Accident rates in the beverage can industry are extremely low with only five recordable accidents with over one day’s absence since 2007.

Industry Overview

Historically Serbia had an agricultural background but in recent years has attracted investment from foreign companies to begin manufacturing there.

The country also has other key advantages such as lower labour costs as well as cheaper energy prices. There is a diversity of industries across a wide range of sectors as can be seen by the example list below. There is a labour force of around 1,703,000 made up of 59.6 per cent in services, 23.9 per cent in agriculture and 16.5 per cent in industry(3)

NIS (Gazprom neft) – Oil Industry

The company is majority owned by Russia’s Gazprom with the Serbian state holding just over a quarter of the stock.

BALL PACKAGING EUROPE – Aluminium Beverage Packaging

Ball Packaging Europe is one of the leading beverage can producers in Europe and belongs to Ball Corporation based in Denver Colorado

TIGAR tyers – Rubber Products

This private company operates as a subsidiary of Compagnie Generale DES Etablissements Michelin SCA.

FIAT – Car Manufacturing

This is a joint venture between Fiat and the Serbian Government.

HIP PETROHEMIJA – Petrochemical

This company is currently state owned . The Serbian Government is selecting potential strategic partners for HIP Petrohemija with the aim of privatising the company and stabilising its operations.

HEMOFARM – Pharmaceuticals

Hemofarm a.d. is a Serbian pharmaceutical company based in Serbia. It is one of the largest domestic producer and exporter of medicines in Serbia and operates as a subsidiary of Stada-Arzneimittel AG.

TARKETT – Flooring products

Tarkett headquarters are in France and is a worldwide leader of innovative and sustainable flooring and sports surface solutions. Tarkett is a private holding company and operates as a subsidiary of Tarkett S.A.

SIRMIUM STEEL – Manufacture of basic iron, steel and ferro-alloys

Sirmium Steel is a Private Limited Liability Company.

GRUNDFOS – Industrial and Domestic Pump Manufacturer

Grundfos is the world’s largest pump manufacturer, with its headquarters based in Denmark,

TETRAPAK – Food packaging and processing company

Swedish packaging production company with limited liability and the investments of the Tetra Pak company.

IMPOL SEVAL – Aluminium production

Serbian Private Limited Liability Company.

DELHAIZE SERBIA – The principal activity of Delhaize Group is the operation of food supermarkets.

Private company with its headquarters in Anderlect, Brussels, Belgium.

Regulatory Bodies and Associations

Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs – Responsible for the administration tasks relating to: the systems in the field of labour relations and labour rights including Health and safety.

Labour Inspectorate – Performs tasks including inspection and supervision in the field of labour, employment relations and health and safety at work, and investigates deaths and serious injuries.

Inspectorate’s activities are aimed at combating undeclared work, reducing the number of violations of labour relations (overtime, wages, other forms of discrimination), as well as to the development of a modern system of labour inspection.

Occupational Safety and Health Directorate – Ministry of Labour

There are a number of Trade Associations for OHS in Serbia and numerous licensed institutes who organise training, safety, environmental and equipment checks etc.

The ASSOCIATION for SAFETY and HEALTH at WORK was formed as a professional association of experts, engineers, workers representatives and other persons professionally oriented at occupational safety and health systems and works with the Serbian Government to develop, encourage and support the activities of all stakeholders in the continuous and systematic improvement and advancement of health and safety at work and working conditions.

INSTITUTE of SECURITY and SAFETY has the mission to develop opportunities in the field of health and safety at work, environmental protection as well as investment to build the state institutions and private companies.

INSTITUTE for SECURITY and PREVENTITIVE ENGINEERING is a limited liability company that provides services in the field of health and safety at work, environmental protection, fire protection, technical inspections, facilities and supervision.

TEHPRO provide in following areas: health and safety at work, fire protection, environmental protection, professional training and education, legal services, consulting for IMS and the sale of safety equipment.

INSTITUTE for PREVENTION provide expert help in the areas of occupational safety, fire and explosion, environmental protection and other sectors of the economy.

MD PROJECT INSTITUTE is a specialised, accredited and licensed company, with a mission to promote awareness of users and stakeholders to respect the basic principles, and the importance of continuous improvement of health and safety at work, environmental protection and fire protection.

Serbian Institute of Occupational Health – The Institute was founded in 1953 as a clinical centre for occupational diseases at the Medical Faculty in Belgrade and an integral part of the Department of Internal Medicine in 1959 grew into the Institute. It was leading the tradition of protecting the health of workers. Since April 2007 the Institute became independent under the name of Institute of Occupational Health of Serbia.

Serbian Association of Employers – By far the most relevant employer organisation in the recent period has been the Serbian Association of Employers (Unija poslodavaca Srbije, SAE), which remains the only representative employer organisation at the national level in Serbia and as such belongs to the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) as a full member.

Trade Unions of Serbia

The two most relevant trade union confederations currently recognised as representative on the national level are the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Serbia(1) and the United Branch Trade Unions (2) both of which participate in the Social and Economic Council at the national level.


What does the future hold for Serbia? Well, a positive future certainly seems to depend on accession into the European Union. But there is genuine optimism both internally and externally with foreign investment taking place not only by Eurozone countries but further afield from China and Russia. It is a country with immense opportunities and the market can only grow.


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