Case 2006-147

No. 3842. C. C., n°2006-147, 28 September 2006
Download Judgment: French Flemish
Country: Belgium
Region: Europe
Year: 2006
Court: Constitutional Court [Court Constiutionelle]
Health Topics: Occupational health
Human Rights: Right to favorable working conditions
Tags: Industrial hygiene, Job safety, Occupational hazards, Occupational health and safety, Safe working conditions

The region of Wallonia brought a claim before the Court challenging a 1996 Royal Decree limiting the stocking of inflammable and combustible products in the workplace. The Decree created a law to address safety concerns in stocking such products and protect the well-being of all workers in the worksite. The applicant challenged the jurisdictional validity of the Royal Decree. Three interlocutory questions were brought before the Court: (1) does Article 2 of the Decree violate the 1980 institutional reforms by equating third-party workers who are working under the authority of someone else with workers who are employed at the workplace?, (2) does Article 2 violate the 1980 institutional reforms by authorizing the Crown to make worker protection measures applicable to persons in the future beyond those explicitly referred to in the Decree?, (3) does Article 4 of the 1996 law violate the 1980 institutional reforms by authorizing the federal state to regulate environmental measures taken by businesses, regarding their influence on work safety?.

The Court answered all three interlocutory questions negatively, dismissing the challenge brought forth by the region of Wallonia.

For the first interlocutory question, the Court determined that equating other categories of people with workers, in terms of deserving protection under the 1996 law, was constitutionally valid. Article 2 specified that protection measures applied to people who, by virtue of a work contract, were carrying out work services in the workplace under the authority of another person. This category included people such as laborers or sales representatives, working under the authority of a third party, yet who happened to find themselves in the workplace in question. The Court upheld this protection, examining the legislative intent of Article 2. The Court found that the law was intended to ensure protection applies equally not just to regular workers in the workplace, but also to others who found themselves in identical or analogous work conditions, or in the same place as the workers. Applying the law in this broad manner ended uncertainties in worker protection and avoided difficulties in the application of worker protection.

The second interlocutory question concerned the protection extended to people not explicitly mentioned in Article 2, but other people who found themselves in the workplace such as visitors and clients. Article 2 contained the possibility that the Crown could extend the scope of application of worker protection measures to such people, but there was no obligation. Using the Crown authority to extend the protection measures in Article 2 was used to respond to practical necessities in certain situations. Since the Crown authority extended the protection measures only when necessary, the Court held that this did not unduly infringe on the regional jurisdiction.

The third interlocutory question concerned the authority of the federal state to regulate environmental measures taken by businesses, in terms of their influence on worker safety. The Court held that federal jurisdiction in worker protection covered a variety of aspects of workers’ well-being, including the protection of a healthy working environment. The Court held that environmental quality of the workplace was an essential element of worker health and safety. By allowing the Crown to impose on employers and workers provisions relating to environmental protection, the federal state did not disproportionately infringe on regional jurisdiction.

“En décidant que les catégories de personnes visées à l’article 2, § 1er, alinéa 2, 1°,bénéficient de la protection accordée aux travailleurs, le législateur fédéral s’est donc fondé sur l’existence de prestations de travail au sens large, auxquelles il a voulu assurer une égale protection;”- (B.9.4.)

“In deciding that the categories of people referred to in Article 2, s. 2, paragraph 2, 1°, enjoy the protection afforded to workers, the federal legislator conceived of labour services in a broad sense, to which equal protection was assured;”- (B.9.4.)

“En permettant au Roi d’étendre le champ d’application personnel de la loi du 4 août 1996 à des personnes autres que les travailleurs et personnes assimilées, en raison de leur présence sur les lieux de travail, le législateur a adopté une mesure visant à assurer, dans un souci d’égalité, la protection de toutes les personnes, quel que soit leur statut, se trouvant sur des lieux de travail.”- (B.16.1.)

 

“By allowing the Crown to extend the scope of the August 4, 1996 law to persons other than workers and persons treated as such, the legislature passed a measure to ensure, in the interests of equality, the protection of all persons, regardless of their status, who find themselves in workplaces.”- (B.16.1.)

“Il est cohérent que la compétence fédérale en matière de protection du travail englobe les différents aspects de la protection du bien-être du travailleur, notamment la protection d’un environnement sain au travail.”- (B.20.4.)

“It is consistent that federal jurisdiction over labor protection encompasses different aspects of protecting the well-being of workers, including protection of the environment in the workplace.”- (B.20.4.)

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