Labor Protection

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Labor Protection


the system of technological, sanitary, hygienic, and legal measures directly aimed at ensuring working conditions that are not harmful to human life and health. In the USSR and other socialist countries, the protection of the health of working people and the elimination of occupational diseases and work injuries is one of the chief concerns of the state. Significant sums are allocated every year for labor protection and industrial safety. Achievements in labor protection in the socialist countries are closely linked to technological progress; integrated mechanization and automation of production make working conditions easier and eliminate heavy physical labor. Protection of labor includes preventing the harmful social consequences that can result if safety measures are neglected, and special legal guaranties have been instituted to avoid such consequences. Thus, safety and sanitation rules are included in laws and other provisions, regular checks on the observance of these rules have been instituted, and violators are held strictly accountable.

The Soviet state obliges all enterprises, establishments, and organizations to observe the requirements of labor protection. The basic statutes on labor protection are contained in the Basic Principles of Labor Law of the USSR and Union Republics and the codes of labor law of the Union republics. Provisions for the protection of labor are also contained in intraorganizational work regulations. The general labor protection requirements in the Basic Principles are made specific in rules on safety precautions and in sanitary standards and rules. Technological standards for labor protection define measures protecting workers against injury by the objects and means of labor and establish safe layouts for enterprises, machinery, equipment, and tools; in addition, they require that machine tools and machinery be provided with built-in guards and protective devices.

The standards for industrial sanitation and labor hygiene prescribe the layout of sanitary and special industrial facilities and require installation of the appropriate equipment. They also stipulate safe levels of dust, vapors, and steam in work areas, as well as permissible temperature, humidity, and noise levels.

The system of rules on safety precautions and industrial sanitation comprises general rules that are standard for all national economic sectors, as well as intersectoral and sectoral rules. The rules are delimited according to their sphere of application. The general rules determine the chief requirements for organization and operation of any industrial enterprise so as to ensure labor protection. An example of such general rules are the Sanitary Standards for the Planning of Industrial Enterprises, which have been ratified by the State Committee for Construction of the USSR. Intersectoral rules cover certain types of production operations and equipment found in different national economic sectors. Sectoral rules apply only to individual sectors, for example, the Rules on Safety Precautions for Enterprises of the Cotton Textile Industry. General and intersectoral rules are ratified by the Council of Ministers of the USSR or by other state agencies authorized by the council, jointly or by agreement with the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions. Sectoral rules and standards for labor protection are ratified by the ministries, departments, and state supervisory agencies, jointly or by agreement with the central committees of the appropriate trade unions. Certain workers are provided with special-purpose clothing, footwear, and other types of individual protection at enterprise expense and according to established standards to protect their health from harmful factors in the industrial environment. Where necessary, they may receive supplementary fats or be put on special diets.

Compliance with labor safety standards is supervised primarily by trade union agencies, specifically, by the unions’ technical and legal labor inspectorates. In addition to the trade unions, special state agencies supervise labor protection—the State Committee for Supervision of Work Safety in Industry and for Mining Supervision (Gosgortekhnadzor SSSR), the Supervisory Committee on Power Engineering, the State Commitee for Supervision of Agriculture (Gossel’tekhnadzor), and the Sanitation Inspectorate. The Procurator’s Office of the USSR is responsible for general supervision of compliance with labor protection law.

In the capitalist countries, the level of legal protection of labor is extremely low. In the United States, for example, labor protection is restricted primarily to legislation passed by the individual states. As a result, standards for labor protection are extremely inconsistent, many applying to a small number of enterprises and sometimes only to certain categories of workers. Existing federal legislation—for example, technical standards—is for the most part recommendatory.

In Great Britain, the Factories Act of 1961, which applies to the main industries, contains regulations on labor protection and safety precautions. In many sectors of industry there are sectoral rules on safety precautions. Usually the standards for labor protection are overly general and unclearly formulated. For example, the Factories Act of 1961 obliges business owners to ensure safe entry to and departure from work and protection against falls to the extent this is practically expedient.

In Italy, legal protection of labor is regulated by decrees of the president of the republic (1955 and 1956). There are also laws to protect the labor of women and young people.

In the capitalist countries, implementation of labor protection and safety rules is made difficult by the opposition of business owners. Pleading “technical difficulties” and “lack of capital,” they refuse to obey the rules on safety precautions and industrial sanitation and protest the adoption of every act of legislation involving labor protection. The absence of effective state inspection in the labor protection field and of legal guaranties of labor protection leads to widespread violations of labor protection rules and, as a result, to a high injury rate among workers. The refusal to permit unions to monitor safety also contributes to the poor quality of labor protection, as does the negligible size of the penalties imposed upon owners who fail to comply with safety standards. The demand for safe working conditions, the adoption of general laws on labor protection, and the institution of effective means of ensuring compliance are important aspects of the struggle of working people for their rights.


Kiselev, la. L. Okhrana truda po sovetskomu trudovomu pravu. Moscow, 1962.
Kiselev, I. Ia. Sovremennyi kapitalizm i trudovoe zakonodatel’stvo. Moscow, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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