Brazil: Government Partially Concedes on Controversial Safety Requirements for Machinery

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By Ed Taylor

July 16—A five-year struggle by Brazilian companies to alter a government regulation establishing new job safety requirements for handling machinery and equipment finally produced results June 26, but not all opponents had hoped for.

The labor ministry issued an ordinance meeting some of the demands of the National Confederation of Industry, which has led the fight against Norm 12.

Issued at the end of 2010 and effective in 2013, the new norm contains 340 requirements employers must meet compared with only 50 under the previous regulation and is retroactive, meaning all existing machinery and equipment must pass the new safety requirements.

According to the confederation of industry, the additional requirements go far beyond what is necessary to guarantee job safety and require enormous employer expenditures. The confederation estimated that the “initial” cost for industry to meet the new requirements would run close to $50 billion.

Two Concessions

After months of negotiations between the government, business and organized labor, the labor ministry announced two important concessions, part of the demands made by the confederation of industry in December 2013: exports of Brazilian machinery and equipment will not be subject to Norm 12, and the regulations will be simplified for small companies.

Employers were unable to eliminate the retroactive clause, however, their major complaint about the new norm. According to Rinaldo Marinho, head of the labor ministry's department of health and safety, the retroactive issue is still under discussion and changes may be announced by the end of the year.

For Alexandre Furlan, president of the trade relations council of the confederation of industry, the concessions made by the labor ministry constitute the opening of negotiations on the norm, and business will not be satisfied until the retroactive requirement has been eliminated, exempting old equipment from the norm, and different requirements set for manufacturers of machinery and users of this equipment.

“We need to revise this text entirely,” Furlan said.

Meanwhile, labor ministry officials are continuing to inspect factories and fine companies for failing to meet the requirements of Norm 12.

“There are even factories that are being forced to shut down,” Furlan said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ed Taylor in Rio de Janeiro at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at

For more information on Brazilian HR law and regulation, see the Brazil primer.