OSH system at national level - Germany

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  IOM

Simon Kaluza, BAuA, Germany

OSH Legislative Framework

The German legislative OSH framework is characterised by the influence of European directives. These directives are implemented on the national level. The German national regulations and acts are then concretised by social accident insurance institutions’ accident prevention regulations. Technical rules and standards complement national regulations on a voluntary basis.

The German occupational safety and health (OSH) system includes several stakeholders: Whereas the Federal State (Bund), and in particular the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales, BMAS) enacts OSH laws and acts at the national level, the states (Länder or Bundesländer) keep the enforcement of these laws under surveillance.

The European OSH framework directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989[1] on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work is mainly transposed by the German Occupational and Safety Act (Arbeitsschutzgesetz, ArbSchG)[2]. This act defines the basic OSH principles and OSH measures for the employer and employees.

Book VII of the German Social Code - Accident Insurance (Siebtes Buch Sozialgesetzbuch - Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung, SGB VII) is the legal basis for social accident insurance at work[3].

The Act on Occupational Physicians, Safety Engineers and other OSH Professionals/ Occupational Safety Act (Gesetz über Betriebsärzte, Sicherheitsingenieure und andere Fachkräfte für Arbeitssicherheit, Arbeitssicherheitsgesetz, ASiG) is the legal basis for occupational physicians (Betriebsärzte, Werksärzte) and OSH professionals (Fachkräfte für Arbeitssicherheit)[4].

Other key laws and regulations governing safety and health at work are the:

  • Chemicals Act (Gesetz zum Schutz vor gefährlichen Stoffen, Chemikaliengesetz, ChemG)[5]
  • Product Safety Act (Gesetz über die Bereitstellung von Produkten auf dem Markt, Produktsicherheitsgesetz, ProdSG)[6]
  • Working Time Act (Arbeitszeitgesetz, ArbZG)[7]
  • Young Workers OSH Law (Gesetz zum Schutze der arbeitenden Jugend, Jugendarbeitsschutzgesetz, JArbSchG)[8]
  • Law on the Protection of Expectant and Nursing Mothers (Gesetz zum Schutz der erwerbstätigen Mutter, Mutterschutzgesetz, MuSchG)[9]
  • Works Constitution Act (Betriebsverfassungsgesetz, BetrVG)[10]
  • Federal Mining Act (Bundesberggesetz, BbergG)[11]
  • Ordinance on Workplaces (Verordnung über Arbeitsstätten, Arbeitsstättenverordnung, ArbStättV)[12]
  • Ordinance on Operational Safety (Verordnung über Sicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz bei der Verwendung von Arbeitsmitteln, Betriebssicherheitsverordnung, BetrSichV)[13] 
  • Hazardous Substances Ordinance (Gefahrstoffverordnung, GefStoffV)[14]
  • Ordinance on Occupational Diseases (Berufkskrankheitenverordnung, BKV)[15]
  • Ordinance on Safety and Health Protection at Work involving Biological Agents (Biostoffverordnung, BioStoffV)[16]
  • Construction site ordinance (Verordnung über Sicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz auf Baustellen, Baustellenverordnung, BauStellV)[17].

The annual report on safety and health at work (Bericht "Sicherheit und Gesundheit bei der Arbeit") offers an overview of OSH laws and regulations[18]. Laws and regulations are also available online on the website of the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (Bundesministerium der Justiz und für Verbraucherschutz) (mainly in German)[19].

Furthermore, the social accident insurance institutions (Berufsgenossenschaften and Unfallkassen) enact – on the statutory basis of Book VII of the German Social Code – accident prevention regulations (Unfallverhütungsvorschriften). These regulations are sector-related and they concretise the general OSH laws and regulations. Accident prevention regulations are available on the websites of the German Social Accident Insurance Institutions (DGUV, Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung), the federation of the German social accident insurance and prevention institutions for the industrial and public sectors, and the Social Insurance for Agriculture, Forestry and Horticulture (SVLFG), the umbrella association of the accident insurance institutions for the agricultural sector.

Technical rules (Technische Regeln) and other rules are recommendations which further define laws and regulations. They reflect the state of technology, occupational safety and health and occupational hygiene as well as other definite knowledge relating to activities in a specific field (e.g. hazardous substances). These rules have no legal character, but if the user (employer) follows these rules, they will fulfil their legal duties (presumption of conformity, Vermutungswirkung). Special committees (OSH experts) set up technical rules in different fields:

  • Technical rules for hazardous substances (Technische Regeln für Gefahrstoffe, TRGS)[20]
  • Technical rules for biological agents (Technische Regeln für Biologische Arbeitsstoffe, TRBA)[21]
  • Technical rules for operational safety (Technische Regeln für Betriebssicherheit, TRBS)[22]
  • Technical rules for work places (Technische Regeln für Arbeitsstätten, ASR)[23]
  • Technical rules for the noise and vibration regulation (Technische Regeln zur Lärm- und Vibrations-Arbeitsschutzverordnung, TRLV)[24]
  • Rules for occupational health care (Arbeitsmedizinische Regeln, AMR)[25]

Standards and other non-legal regulations are further opportunities to concretise OSH laws.

National Strategy

The Joint German Occupational Safety and Health Strategy (Gemeinsame Deutsche Arbeitsschutzstrategie, GDA)[26] was established in November 2008 by changes to the Occupational Safety Act and the Book VII of the German Social Code[27]. The GDA is jointly supported by the German government (Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, BMAS), the 16 Länder (Federal States) and the accident insurance institutions. The strategy forms the basis for action in order to attain jointly established OSH objectives.

General goals of the GDA: The overall goal of the GDA is to maintain, improve and promote safety and health of workers by means of the efficient and systematic implementation of OSH, including workplace health promotion (WHP) measures[28]. In addition, the awareness of safety and health among employers and workers should be strengthened by the GDA. Reducing accidents at work and work-related illnesses save money at microeconomic and macroeconomic level. OSH is intended to promote positive changes, not to hinder them. Against this background, the Joint German OSH Strategy contributes to:

  • maintain and strengthen employability, including the promotion of lifelong learning
  • support general health objectives
  • relieve the social insurance systems and
  • increase the competitiveness of companies.


Core elements

The GDA has following core elements:

  • the development of common objectives in the field of OSH
  • the elaboration of common fields of action and work programmes and their implementation according to consistent principles
  • the evaluation of these objectives, joint fields of action and work programmes
  • the improvement of the cooperation and coordination of the actions of the institutional OSH stakeholders (Bund, Länder and social accident insurance)
  • the establishment of a transparent, appropriate and user-friendly set of provisions and regulations[29].


Joint OSH objectives

On the basis of the general goals and the core elements, the GDA set up joint objectives for the period.

GDA-objectives from 2013-2018 (Work programm 2013 - 2018)[30]:

From 2013 to 2018 the German government, federal states and public accident insurance institutions (in the frame of the GDA) will concentrate their prevention activities on the attainment of the three joint occupational safety and health objectives[31]

  • Improvement in the organisation of company occupational safety and health (ORGA)[32]
  • Reduction in work-related health hazards and musculoskeletal disorders (MSD)[33]
  • Protection and strengthening of health in the case of work-related mental load (PSYCH)[34]


The objective "Improvement in the organisation of company occupational safety and health" focuses particularly on the integration of safety and health into corporate processes and decision-making areas as well as an improvement in the implementation of the risk assessment. One of the essential support services for enterprises is the GDA-ORGAcheck. Focal points of action in the field of work-related health hazards and musculoskeletal disorders concentrate on the healthy design of activities involving one-sided load situations and little movement, on the one hand, and activities with high physical strains, on the other. The attainment of the objective "Protection and strengthening of health in the case of work-related mental load" will initially involve developing activities and tools which permit early identification and assessment with regard to health hazards. Furthermore, preventive measures which relate to the work organisation as well as the promotion of health and skills are to be developed and implemented to reduce work-related mental loads. The three objectives will be implemented by three nationwide work programmes (one work programme each objective)[35].


Work programmes 2008 – 2012:

In the first period, from 2008 to 2012, the GDA stakeholders derived 11 work programmes from the joint OSH objectives. These work programmes were split in six nationwide work programmes of highest priority (building and installation work, temporary work, driving and transporting safely, nursing and care, office, skin), which were mandatory for implementation by the GDA stakeholders and five work programmes (schools, food industry, precision mechanical installation activities, gastronomy and hotel industry, transport of passengers in public urban transport), which were optional for implementation.


The National Occupational Safety and Health Conference: The National Occupational Safety and Health Conference (Nationale Arbeitsschutzkonferenz, NAK) is the central decision-making body of the GDA[36]. The NAK plans, coordinates and evaluates the measures provided for the implementation of GDA.

The NAK is composed of representatives from the Federal Government (Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs), the Federal States and the accident insurance institutions. The National Occupational Safety and Health Conference receives advice from three representatives from each of the umbrella organisations of the employers (employers associations) and workers (trade unions). Furthermore, the social partners participate in the NAK meetings and they give advice in developing OSH objectives. The NAK chair alternates every year among the Federal Government, the Federal States and the accident insurance institutions.

The Office of the National Occupational Safety and Health Conference (Geschäftsstelle NAK) supports the National Occupational Safety and Health Conference. The Office of the NAK is located at the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA) in Berlin.

The Occupational Safety and Health Forum: The systematic dialogue between the GDA partners and all relevant OSH stakeholders takes place in the Occupational Safety and Health Forum[37]. This forum advises the NAK. Meetings (workshops) are held annually. The social partners, professional and industrial associations, health insurance and pension insurance funds, national networks in the field of OSH and academic representatives participate in the forum meetings.


Evaluation

It is required that every strategy period "the attainment of the objectives of the Joint German OSH Strategy would be quality-assured and evaluated" and that the Joint German OSH Strategy in its entirety would be evaluated as regards interdisciplinary effects on the occupational safety and health system and safety and health at work. As the current strategy period is still ongoing (till 2018) there is no evaluation report available yet. However, the evaluation concept is published on the website. It provides information on the evaluation methods and instruments. In the period 2013 – 2018 the evaluation is based on the model of process-oriented impact monitoring.[38] The former strategy was evaluated, the reports and special evaluations are online available.[39][40] As the current strategy period is still ongoing (till 2018) there is no final evaluation report available yet. However, the evaluation concept is published on the website which provides information on the evaluation methods and instruments as well as an interim evaluation report are published on the website.

Cooperation with the National Prevention Conference (NPK): The NAK cooperates with the NPK within the framework of the Preventive Health Care Act. The goals of the GDA are to be considered for the goal "healthy living and working" in the Preventive Health Care Act.

Social Dialogue

The Social Dialogue at National Level

The social partners play an important role in occupational safety and health in Germany: They take part, for example, in legislative procedures, the Joint German Occupational Safety and Health Strategy, (technical) committees, networks and the autonomous administration of the social accident insurance.

In the legislative process the social partners can be invited to hearings of the Bundestag and committees of the Bundestag (e.g. the Committee on Labour and Social Affairs of the Bundestag)[41]. Furthermore, the National Occupational Safety and Health Conference (NAK) receives advice from three representatives from each of the umbrella organisations of the employers (employers associations) and workers (trade unions)[42]. The social partners participate in the NAK meetings and they give advice in developing OSH objectives. The social partners do not have the right to vote in the NAK.

Moreover, the social partners are members of different technical committees, like the Committee on Hazardous Substances (Ausschuss für Gefahrstoffe, AGS) or the Committee for Biological Agents (Ausschuss für Biologische Arbeitsstoffe, ABAS)[43]. These committees establish technical rules (Technische Regeln) and adapt them to current developments.

In the standardisation processes, the social partners take part in the Commission for Occupational Health and Safety and Standardisation (Kommission für Arbeitsschutz und Normung, KAN)[44]. This commission is composed of five representatives from each of the employers, the trade unions, the State and the Federal States and there is one representative from each of the DIN (German Standards Institute) and the Association for the Promotion of Occupational Health and Safety in Europe (VFA) or the German Social Accident Insurance Association (DGUV).

Further activities of the social partners include the development of their own programmes, e.g. the initiative "Innovation und Gute Arbeit“ ("Innovation and Decent work" of the Ver.di trade union)[45], the establishment of surveys (e.g. the DGB-Index Gute Arbeit (DGB-Index Decent work))[46] or the cooperation with the trade union associated Hans-Böckler Foundation[47] and the employer associated "Institut für angewandte Arbeitswissenschaft" (ifaa)[48].

The Social Dialogue at Sectoral Level

The social dialogue at sectoral level also comprises the self-administration (Selbstverwaltung) of social accident insurance institutions[49][50]. Within the self-administration, both employer and employees have an equal number of votes. In addition, the structure of the member companies (services, trade and industry) is reflected in the composition of self-administrative bodies[51]. The self-administration’s bodies are the representative committee (Vertreterversammlung) and the Executive Board (Vorstand). The members of these bodies are elected in six-yearly social insurance elections[52]. Social insurance elections are used to appoint new members to the self-administrative bodies, which all insurance providers must establish under Section 31 (1) of Book IV of the German Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch IV, SGB IV)[53]. The insured workers and the employers elect their representatives in the representative committee. The members of the representative committee elect the Executive Board (with equal representation). The self-administration in the social accident insurance institutions

  • establishes the accident prevention regulations
  • defines the risk tariffs (Gefahrentarife)
  • determines the amount of contributions,
  • elects the Executive Board
  • determines the budget
  • sets up conflict points, which consist of voluntary representatives of insured persons and employers[54].

Besides the social dialogue in the self-administration of the social accident insurance institutions, trade unions and employer's representatives in diverse sectors interact with each other. Fields of interaction are, for example, e-commerce, trade or occupational safety and health[55]. On sectoral level employer associations and employee associations work together. The topics for cooperation and exchange are not fixed and depend on the needs of a specific branch. Trade unions with their high number of members have got the opportunity to observe health hazards earlier than one worker or a small group of workers can do. In addition, sometimes the trade unions have enough political power to obtain improvements even against the resistance of employers or politicians.

The Social Dialogue at Enterprise and Plant Level

The Works Constitution Act (Betriebsverfassungsgesetz, BetrVG) regulates the participation of employees in company affairs. In companies with at least five eligible employees, work councils can be elected[56]. The members of work councils can, but need not be trade union members. The work council represents all employees and their interests face to face with the employer. Furthermore, the work council has specific consultation and co-determination rights (Mitwirkungs- und Mitbestimmungsrechte), in particular, in social, human and economic affairs. The works council pays attention to the equal treatment of employees, in particular, to discrimination because of sex, sexual identity, race, religion, nationality, origin, age and disability.

Administrations of the State and the Federal States, municipalities and other institutions of public law are excluded from the Works Constitution Act[57]. In these administrations, the Personnel Representation Act (Personalvertretungsgesetz) of the Bund and the Federal States are applicable.

Further laws for the social dialogue on company level are:

  • One-Third Participation Act (Drittelbeteiligungsgesetz, DrittelbG) for one-third representation of employees in the board of directors in stock corporations (Aktiengesellschaften, AG), limited liability companies (Gesellschaften mit beschränkter Haftung, GmbH), partnerships limited by shares (Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien, KGaA), cooperatives (Genossenschaften) and mutual insurance companies (Versicherungsvereinen auf Gegenseitigkeit) with more than 500 (but less than 2,000) employees[58]
  • Co-determination Act (Mitbestimmungsgesetz, MitbG) for equal employee representation on the board of directors in stock corporations (Aktiengesellschaften), limited liability companies (Gesellschaften mit beschränkter Haftung, GmbH), partnerships limited by shares (Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien, KGaA) and cooperatives (Genossenschaften) with more than 2,000 employees[59]
  • Montane Co-determination Act (Montanmitbestimmungsgesetz, Mont-MitbestErgG) for the equal employee representation in the board of directors in stock corporations (Aktiengesellschaften) or limited liability companies (Gesellschaften mit beschränkter Haftung, GmbH) with more than 1,000 employees in the field of coal, iron and steel[60]
  • SE Participation Act (SE-Beteiligungsgesetz, SEBG) for the participation of employees in European Companies (Europäische Gesellschaft)[61]
  • SCE Participation Act (SCE-Beteiligungsgesetz, SCEBG) for the participation of employees in European Cooperatives (Europäische Genossenschaften)[62]
  • Law on Employee Participation in a Cross-border Merger (Gesetz über die Mitbestimmung der Arbeitnehmer bei einer grenzüberschreitenden Verschmelzung, MgVG) for the regulation of the participation of employees (workers) in companies resulting from a cross-border merger[63].

OSH Infrastructure

OSH Infrastructure Scheme

Occupational Safety and Health in Germany
In Germany occupational safety and health comprises all measures for safety and health of employees at work[64]. This includes the prevention of occupational accidents, occupational diseases and work-related health risks (arbeitsbedingte Gesundheitsgefahren) and the humane design of working conditions. Furthermore, occupational safety and health includes all questions of working time and the protection of vulnerable groups (e.g. young workers, pregnant women), but it does not comprise questions of employment or payment.

The German occupational safety and health system is characterized by federalism and dualism.

Figure 1: OSH system in Germany (legal framework)

OSH system in Germany.JPG

Source: SuGA 2015[65]

Federalism
Germany is a federal state with 16 independent states (Federal States, Bundesländer). Whereas the Bundestag enacts OSH acts and laws, the Federal Government (Bundesregierung) mainly enacts regulations. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) prepares acts and regulations in the field of OSH, with the participation of the

  • Federal States
  • umbrella organisations of the trade unions
  • umbrella organisations of the employers
  • umbrella organisations of the social accident insurance institutions and the
  • relevant professional OSH associations.

The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA) is a departmental federal research institution that advises the BMAS. The OSH authorities of the Federal States are charged with the enforcement of the OSH laws. For this purpose, each Federal State has set up its own labour inspection system (e.g. Gewerbeaufsichtsämter, Staatliche Ämter für Arbeitsschutz). Besides the enforcement, the labour inspectorates also give advice to the employers and assigns necessary OSH measures for the safety and health of employees.


Dualism
The occupational safety and health system in Germany is based on two pillars: on the one hand are the State and the Federal States[66]; on the other hand, there are the social accident insurance institutions (Berufsgenossenschaften, Unfallkassen) for the industrial, public and agricultural sector.

The main objectives of the social accident insurances are the prevention of occupational accidents, occupational diseases and work-related health risks[67]. In order to fulfill these tasks, the accident insurances enact accident prevention regulations (Unfallverhütungsvorschriften, UVV), which require the approval of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS). The enforcement of these accident prevention regulations is carried out by the prevention services (Technische Aufsichtsdienste, TAD) of the respective accident insurances. Furthermore, the accident insurances give advice to the employer and employees and are responsible for rehabilitation and compensation.

Information, coordination and cooperation of the OSH stakeholder: In order to avoid a duplication of work, the State, the 16 Federal States and the social accident insurances established the Joint German OSH Strategy (GDA)[68]. This requires close cooperation and coordination of the stakeholders.

Competent National Bodies

OSH Authorities and Inspection Services

Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales, BMAS)[69] is the ministry in the areas of labour market, labour law, occupational safety and health, initial and continuing training, social security, pensions and the participation of persons with disabilities[70].

The BMAS prepares laws, ordinances and technical rules in the field of occupational safety and health. Furthermore, the Ministry supervises the social accident insurance institutions and the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA) and it is represented in the National Occupational Safety and Health Conference of the Joint German OSH Strategy[71] as well as in the National Prevention Conference[72].

Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA)[73] is a public-law institution without legal capacity[74]. As a federal authority (Bundesbehörde), it is directly responsible to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS). As a governmental research institution (Ressortforschungseinrichtung), it advises the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in all matters of occupational safety and health and on the humane design of working conditions. As a federal institution with R&D functions, BAuA operates at the interface between science and politics and renders transfer services from the science system into policy, corporate practice and the broader society and vice versa. BAuA's tasks range from policy advice, research and development in OSH and the performance of sovereign duties through to transferring knowledge into corporate practice and the educational and instructional work done by the DASA Working World Exhibition[75].

OSH Authorities of the Federal States
Whereas the State and, in particular, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs prepares OSH laws, acts and ordinances at national level, the responsible authorities of the Federal States have to supervise the compliance with national OSH law. In addition, the Federal States authorities advise the employers in the discharge of their duties.

The State Committee for Occupational Safety, Health and Technology (Länderausschuss für Arbeitsschutz und Sicherheitstechnik, LASI) is one committee dedicated to the conference of the Federal States ministries of labour and social affairs (Arbeits- und Sozialministerkonferenz, ASMK)[76]. The LASI performs the following coordination tasks:

  • treatment of fundamental issues of occupational safety and health, aiming at consistent implementation in the Federal States
  • advising the conference of the Federal States ministries of labour and social affairs (ASMK) in all matters of safety and health in the workplace and the safe design of technology, especially for the implementation and further development of the Joint German Occupational Safety and Health Strategy (GDA)
  • implementation and further development of the GDA, in cooperation with the Federal Government and the social accident insurance institutions and their umbrella organisations DGUV and SVLFG, with participation of the social partners
  • discussion and development of legal OSH issues in the workplace, aiming at the consistent application of law
  • development of principle and cross-organisational questions of enforcement (enforcement strategies, organisation, personnel, reporting, exchange of information, education and training, exchange of experiences).

The LASI is the highest committee for occupational safety and health under the level of the ASMK.

German Social Accident Insurance institutions for industry and trade - Gewerbliche Berufsgenossenschaften (BGs)
The 9 Berufsgenossenschaften are social accident insurance institutions for industry and trade with health and safety inspection services of their own. Membership of these economic sector-oriented social accident insurance institutions is compulsory for all enterprises and organisations, which are registered in Germany. Contributions are paid solely by the employers.

German Social Accident Insurance institutions for the public sector - Unfallkassen (UKs)
The 24 Unfallkassen are mainly regional social accident insurance institutions for the public sector but also comprise of the institutions for federal public service and railways as well as for fire brigades. Thes are running health and safety inspection services of their own. UKs also insure and survey children at day care centres, schools and university students. Pupil accident insurance contributions are paid by the hosting institutions, eg the schools.

Social Insurance institution for the agricultural sector - Sozialversicherung für Landwirtschaft, Forsten und Gartenbau (SVLFG)
The SVLFG is t he social insurance institution for the agricultural, horticultural and forestal sector, responsible for the implementation of the social accident insurance, pension insurance, health insurance and nursing care insurance for the agricultural sector. The SVLFG department responsible for the social accident insurance runs health and safety inspection services of its own. Membership of SVLFG social insurance is compulsory for all farms, silvicultural, viticultural and horticultural and forest enterprises which have their registered office in Germany. Contributions are paid predominantly by employers, but the agricultural system is also subsidised by the state.

OSH Services (company's organisation of OSH)

Occupational Physicans and OSH Professionals
The employers are responsible for the safety and health of their employees at work [77]. The employer shall evaluate all OSH measures to ensure the effectiveness and to adapt to changing circumstances. It is the duty of the employer to strive to improve the safety and health of employees. For his support, the employers have to appoint OSH professionals (Fachkräfte für Arbeitssicherheit) and occupational physicians (Arbeitsmediziner, Betriebsärzte, Werksärzte) who advise them on OSH matters[78][79]. These experts can be internally employed or hired from professional external services (überbetriebliche Dienste). External OSH services are local, regional or national acting commercial OSH service providers ranging from one to several hundred experts.

Some social accident insurance institutions are offering occupational safety and medical services in some sectors (construction – BG BAU, hotel, restaurant and food processing industry - BGN).

For either internal or external staff, the Act on Occupational Physicians, Safety Engineers and other OSH Professionals (Gesetz über Betriebsärzte, Sicherheitsingenieure und andere Fachkräfte für Arbeitssicherheit, Arbeitssicherheitsgesetz, ASiG) defines the appointment and the tasks of occupational physicians (Arbeitsmediziner, Betriebsärzte, Werksärzte) and OSH professionals (Fachkräfte für Arbeitssicherheit)[80]. The working time of occupational physicians and OSH professionals depends on the number of employees and the risk factors in the company. Accident prevention regulations of the social accident insurance institutions concretise the principles of the Act on Occupational Physicians, Safety Engineers and other OSH Professionals.

The employer must appoint occupational physicians and OSH professionals in written form as the circumstances (type of business, accident and health risks, number of employees, composition of the work force, company organisation) demand. The employer must support the occupational physicians and OSH professionals. This might include additional staff, rooms and equipment. Furthermore, the employer must inform the OSH professionals and occupational physicians about the employment of temporary and external staff in the company. Moreover, the employer has to pay for all OSH matters, also for vocational training. Internal OSH professionals and occupational physicians must have enough time for training.

The accident prevention regulation 2 (DGUV Vorschrift 2) defines in more detail the measures to be taken by employers in order to fulfil their duties as per Act on Occupational Physicians, Safety Engineers and other OSH Professionals[81].

In companies with up to ten employees, the employer can choose regular support (Regelbetreuung) or the employer model (Unternehmermodell). The regular support includes basic support (Grundbetreuung) and occasional support (anlassbezogene Betreuung). The basic support comprises the preparation and update of risk assessments, whereas the occasional support includes specific occasions like the planning, construction and change of new equipment, the establishment of new workplaces and working processes or the analysis of accidents. The employer model includes specific motivation, information and training sessions for employers, which are further specified by the social accident insurance institutions. The employer model is also applicable in companies with 11 to 50 employees, if the employer chooses this model. In companies with more than ten employees, the employer can also choose regular support (Regelbetreuung). The employer gets basic support (Grundbetreuung) plus company-specific support (betriebsspezifische Betreuung). The basic support includes risk assessment, support in general questions of labour organisation, organisation and management of occupational safety and health, advice for company stakeholders (employer, employees, work council) and the analysis of accidents. The working time for occupational physicians and OSH professionals depends on the categorisation of enterprise and varies between 2.5 hours per year per employees in category I and 0.5 hours per year per employees in category III. The company-specific support includes specific labour organisation, organisational changes and activities and programmes in the company.

Further OSH stakeholders on company level can be (depending on the size of the company):

  • fire protection assistants (Brandschutzhelfer)
  • first-aider (Ersthelfer) and ambulance men (Betriebssanitäter)
  • safety delegate (Sicherheitsbeauftragte)
  • special authorised persons for fire protection, hazardous substances, environmental protection, waste management and water protection (Beauftragte für Brandschutz-, Gefahrgut-, Umwelt-, Abfall-, and Gewässerschutz)
  • work council (Betriebsrat / Personalrat).

Services for Technical Control
The Product Safety Act (Gesetz über die Bereitstellung von Produkten auf dem Markt, Produktsicherheitsgesetz, ProdSG) and the Ordinance on Operational Safety (Betriebsicherheitsverordnung, BetrSichV) regulate the set up, and the operation of equipment subject to supervision (überwachungsbedürftige Anlage). Equipment subject to supervision includes, for example, steam boilers, pressure vessels, elevators, installations with explosion hazards, storage facilities with a total capacity of more than 10,000 litres of flammable, highly flammable or highly flammable liquids, service stations and aircraft refuelling facilities and / or emptying points with a handling capacity of more than 1,000 l / h, for flammable, highly flammable or highly flammable liquids.

Companies have to prove the safety of their equipment subject to supervision in compliance with inspection intervals through regular audits by recognised bodies. Recognised bodies are those bodies which are appointed to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) by the Federal States’ authorities for the respective areas of responsibility. The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) publishes two lists of recognised bodies (one list with recognised bodies, and the second list with recognised bodies of companies)[82].

Compensation and Insurance Bodies

Five insurances are mandatory within the German social security system:

  • unemployment insurance (Arbeitslosenversicherung)
  • pension insurance (Rentenversicherung)
  • long term care insurance (Pflegeversicherung)
  • health insurance (Krankenversicherung)
  • accident insurance (Unfallversicherung).

The social accident insurance scheme in Germany was introduced in 1884 within the framework of Otto von Bismarck's social legislation[83]. Today, the social accident insurance covers employees, children, pupils and students, domestic staff and voluntary workers[84]. Responsible bodies for the social accident insurance at work are the social accident insurance institutions (Berufsgenossenschaften, BG, Unfallkassen, UK, Gemeindeunfallversicherungsverbände). The social accident insurance institutions are in charge of prevention, rehabilitation as well as compensation.

The employers pay contributions to the accident insurances. The annual fee is calculated by the sum of salaries and the risk factors in the company. Depending on the statute of the individual accident insurance institution, the annual fee can be reduced partly, dependant on the OSH performance of the company in relation to its risk collective[85]. In contrast, companies with particularly high accident rates must anticipate a surcharge on their contributions[86]. The accident insurance scheme is a non-profit, pay-as-you-go-scheme, but there is a duty to set up reserves e.g. for the coverage of occupational diseases.

According to Book VII of the German Social Code (social accident insurance) the objective of the social accident insurance institutions is to prevent occupational accidents and occupational diseases as well as work-related health hazards by all appropriate means (prevention) and to restore health and (work) abilities of the insured by all appropriate means in case of an occupational accident or occupational disease (rehabilitation), and to pay compensation or pensions for the insured or their bereaved[87]. Occupational accidents include accidents at work and commuting accidents (Wegeunfälle). Occupational diseases are diseases listed in the Ordinance on Occupational Diseases (Berufkskrankheitenverordnung)[88]. Rehabilitation is not limited to the medical point: It includes all available means to return the casualty to working life as well as to the private life.

In order to fulfil their tasks, the social accident insurance established prevention services (Technische Aufsichtsdienste)[89]. In case of an occupational accident or an occupational disease, the social accident insurance institutions work closely together with hospitals and doctors in private practice. However, the accident insurers have their own clinics, which are specialised in the treatment and rehabilitation of casualties and people with occupational diseases.

German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV)
The German Social Accident Insurance (Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung, DGUV) is the umbrella organisation of the social accident insurance institutions for the industrial and the public sector[90]. The DGUV members consist of nine branch-specific social accident insurance institutions for the industrial sector (called Berufsgenossenschaften) and 19 social accident insurance institutions for the public sector (called Unfallkassen or Gemeindeunfallversicherungsverbände), four social accident insurance institutions for fire services (Feuerwehr-Unfallkassen) and the accident insurance of the Federal Government and the Railway Services (Unfallversicherung Bund und Bahn)[91].

The DGUV supports its members (Berufsgenossenschaften, Unfallkassen, Gemeindeunfallversicherungsverbände) in the development of common measures for OSH prevention, the promotion of the ongoing development of rehabilitation and addresses new methods and approaches in vocational training[92]. In addition, the German Social Accident Insurance is divided into six regional associations. These regional associations take over common regional tasks in the areas of prevention and rehabilitation.

DGUV attends to the interests of its members and promotes their tasks for the benefit of the insured and the companies. It represents the social accident insurance for industry and trade as well for the public sector face to face with politics, federal, European and other national and international institutions, the social partners, federal courts and the European High Court.

Furthermore, the DGUV has three research institutes, which are specialised in different fields of occupational safety and health:

  • the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung, IFA) with a scientific and technical focus
  • the Institute for Work and Health (Institut für Arbeit und Gesundheit der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung, IAG) for research in the fields of the social sciences, economics and education, occupational psychology, work organisation, jurisprudence and engineering
  • the Institute for Prevention and Occupational Medicine (Institut für Prävention und Arbeitsmedizin der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung, IPA) for research in the fields of epidemiology, allergology and immunology, molecular biology, pathophysiology and toxicology[93].

Further research facilities are located at specific social accident insurance institutions[94].

Social Insurance for Agriculture, Forestry and Horticulture (SVLFG)
The Social Insurance for Agriculture, Forestry and Horticulture (SVLFG) covers the social protection for accidents, health, pensions and nursing care of persons working in agriculture and forestry[95].

Since January 2013 the Social Insurance for Agriculture, Forestry and Horticulture is the succeeding umbrella organisation on federal level of the former Agricultural Social Insurance (Spitzenverband der landwirtschaftlichen Sozialversicherung, LSV) of the agricultural accident insurances (landwirtschaftlichen Berufsgenossenschaften), the agricultural pension funds (landwirtschaftlichen Alterskassen), the agricultural health insurances (landwirtschaftlichen Krankenkassen) and the agricultural long term care insurances (landwirtschaftlichen Pflegekassen[96].

The SVLFG attends to the interests of its members and promotes their tasks for the benefit of the insured and the companies. It represents the agricultural social security face to face with politics, federal, European and other national and international institutions, the social partners, federal courts and the European Court[97].

The employers, self-employed and employees participate in the bodies of the self-administration (Selbstverwaltung)[98]. The bodies of the self-administration are the representative committee (Vertreterversammlung) and the Executive Board (Vorstand).

The agricultural social insurances provide prevention, rehabilitation and compensation in the agricultural sector.


Education and Training and Awareness Raising

Legally Required Education and Training for OSH Professionals

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the accident prevention regulations the employer shall appoint occupational physicians and OSH professionals who support him in questions of occupational safety and health.

OSH Professionals[99]
On the basis of a decision of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales, BMAS) the social accident insurance institutions reformed the education and training course of OSH professionals (Fachkräfte für Arbeitssicherheit, FASI)[100]. The course is divided into three levels. Level I (basic education) includes two phases of attendance (in each case the duration is one week) and two self-learning phases. The second level (specific education) comprises two phases of attendance[101] (one and two weeks) plus one self-learning phase. Additionally, the participants receive practical training (internship). The third level (specific sectoral education) includes up to one week of attendance. In each level, the learning progress is evaluated. The framework, content and structure of the new training concept are summarised in a compendium [102].

Content of Level 1 education:

  • basic knowledge on risk factors and health promoting factors
  • competencies in the design of work systems
  • competencies in OSH management
  • knowledge on laws and regulations.

Content of Level 2 education:

  • application and strengthening of Level 1 knowledge
  • competencies in design, enforcement and conflict solving strategies.

Content of Level 3 education:

  • extension of the branch-related knowledge .

Besides the social accident insurance institutions in the industrial sector and the DGUV for the public sector, further training providers offer training for OSH professionals[103]. Generally, the OSH authorities of the Federal States are responsible for the recognition of these training providers.

Occupational Physicians The training of occupational physicians is based on general medical training. In collaboration with the German Association of Occupational Physicians (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Arbeitsmedizin und Umweltmedizin, DGAUM), the Association of German Business and Company Doctors (Verband Deutscher Betriebs- und Werksärzte, VDBW) and occupational medicine sections and academies, the German Medical Association (Bundesärztekammer, BÄK) published the course book for occupational medicine[104]. This course book contains methodological recommendations as well as topics for the theoretical training of occupational physicians[105]. The courses for physicians consists of three main parts (A, B and C), each of which are subdivided into two parts. Each part includes 60 hours of education and training: A1: basics, tasks and concepts of occupational medicine; A2: basics of labour organisation; B1: occupational hygiene and toxicology; B2: work-related diseases and occupational diseases; C1: occupational medicine and interdisciplinary cooperation; C2: occupational medicine and social issues.

Other Vocational Training

In addition to the specific training for OSH professionals and occupational physicians, training companies and institutions like the German Red Cross offer specific vocational training for employers (e.g. in the framework of the employer model), fire protection assistants (Brandschutzhelfer), first-aid workers (Ersthelfer) and ambulance men (Betriebssanitäter). The social accident insurance institutions are training safety delegates (Sicherheitsbeauftragte)[106]. Other training institutions provide training to become a special authorised persons for fire protection, hazardous substances, environmental protection, waste management and water protection (Beauftragte für Brandschutz-, Gefahrgut-, Umwelt-, Abfall- und Gewässerschutz). Work council members (Betriebsrat / Personalrat) are trained by unions, universities and other training providers.

Awareness Raising Networks and Campaigns

KomNet[107] includes a web service (OSH knowledge database free of charge) and a telephone service. Within the framework of KomNet, OSH expertise and the experience of specialists is available to everyone. The expert network includes more than 350 experts (OSH experts, governmental agencies, consulting companies and universities). As such, it is a unique "knowledge and service community". Individual responses to individual questions or problems are KomNet’s focus.

The Initiative New Quality of Work (Initiative Neue Qualität der Arbeit, INQA)[108] is a confederation of companies, business associations and institutions, trade unions, foundations, social insurance providers, the Federal Employment Agency and representatives of the Federal States and leading municipal associations and the Federal Government.

INQA was created in 2002 by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Its main aim is to improve the quality of work by providing attractive and healthy working conditions as well as a modern, employee-oriented corporate culture.

Therefore INQA offers practical support for companies in four strategic fields of human ressources policy: management, equal opportunities and diversity, health and knowledge and competences. Here it offers for example up-to-date information, event notes, research projects, more than 180 publications e.g. from successfully implemented research projetcts, practical action-aids, practical tools and the „Top 100 – Good Business Practice“ database, which contains successful best-practice interventions in the four fields mentioned above. Its aim is to provide an uncomplicated, practical and informative exchange of experiences in the field of human ressources policy between companies.

In recent years INQA established several partner networks with more than 3.500 organisations, which are active on a national and regional level and focus on different topics. Partner networks are:

  • Campaign for SME – Good for Germany (Offensive Mittelstand - Gut für Deutschland)
  • The Demography Network (Das Demographie Netzwerk e. V., ddn)
  • Demography Experts (Demografie-Experten e. V., DEx e. V.)
  • German Network “Office“ (Deutsches Netzwerk Büro e. V.)
  • Campaign Healthy Care (Offensive Gesund Pflegen)
  • Work Ability Index Network (Work Ability Index (WAI)-Netzwerk)

In doing so, INQA not only provides practical support for companies and brings together those shaping the future of work in Germany but also wants to promote a broad societal debate on a new quality of work. Its administrative headquarter is based at the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) in Berlin.

Since 2003 the social accident insurance institutions have launched regular prevention campaigns to support the OSH prevention goals (reduction of accidents, occupational diseases and work-related diseases)[109]. These campaigns are focused on specific OSH topics and consist of an umbrella campaign and support campaigns.

Specialized Technical, Medical and Scientific Institutions

Research Institutes

Research Institutions of the National OSH Bodies:
The key research institutes of the national OSH bodies in Germany are:

At the federal level respectively federal state level

  • Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin (BAuA)[110]
  • Landesinstitut für Arbeitsgestaltung (LIA)[111]

At the social accident insurance level

  • Institut für Arbeit und Gesundheit der DGUV (IAG) [112]
  • Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung (IFA)[113]
  • Institut für Prävention und Arbeitsmedizin der DGUV - Institut der Ruhr-Universität Bochum (IPA)[114]

Further Research Institutions in the Field of OSH and OSH-Related Fields:
The following indicative list of research institutes complements the above-mentioned OSH research landscape in Germany:

  • Bergische Universität Wuppertal, Fachbereich D – Sicherheitstechnik[115]
  • Berufsbildungsinstitut Arbeit und Technik (BIAT)[116]
  • Brandenburgische Technische Universität (BTU) Cottbus, Fakultät 3, Lehrgebiet Arbeitswissenschaft/ Arbeitspsychologie[117]
  • Bremer Institut für Betriebstechnik und angewandte Arbeitswissenschaft an der Universität Bremen (BIBA)[118]
  • Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (BIBB)[119]
  • Forschungsgesellschaft für angewandte Systemsicherheit und Arbeitsmedizin e.V. (FSA)[120]
  • Fraunhofer-Institut für Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation (IAO)[121]
  • Fraunhofer-Institut für Toxikologie und Experimentelle Medizin (ITEM)[122]
  • Gesellschaft für Arbeitswissenschaft e.V.[123]
  • Hans-Böckler-Stiftung, Referat Betrieblicher Arbeits- und Umweltschutz[124]
  • Institut für angewandte Arbeitswissenschaft e.V. (ifaa)[125]
  • Institut für Arbeits- und Sozialmedizin (IPAS), Medizinische Fakultät Carl Gustav Carus der Technischen Universität Dresden[126]
  • Institut für Arbeitsmedizin der Universität Rostock[127]
  • Institut für Arbeitsmedizin, Sicherheitstechnik und Ergonomie e.V. (ASER) an der Bergischen Universität Wuppertal[128]]
  • Institut für Arbeitsphysiologie an der Universität Dortmund (IfADo)[129]
  • Institut für Arbeitswissenschaft der RWTH Aachen (IAW)[130]
  • Institut für Gefahrstoff-Forschung (IGF)[131]

Standardisation Agency

The German Institute for Standardisation (Deutsches Institut für Normung e.V., DIN) is the official German standardisation body[132]. This registered non-profit association was acknowledged by an agreement with the German Federal Government. DIN represents German interests in European and international standards organisations. The primary task is to work closely together with its stakeholders (industry, government, associations) to develop consensus-based national and international standards that meet market requirements.

Networks and Professional Associations

Several networks and professional associations are focusing on OSH in Germany. Some of the most relevant are described hereafter.

The German Federal Association for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Sicherheit und Gesundheit bei der Arbeit, BASI)[133] consists of 82 institutions and national organisations in the field of OSH (ministries on national and regional level, unions, social accident insurance insitutions, health insurances, OSH professional and scientific associations), which collaborate on a voluntary basis. The BASI mainly organises the International Congress and Trade Show on Occupational Health and Safety (A+A), which is the largest national and one of the biggest international meeting for OSH experts.

The German Network for Workplace Health Promotion (Deutsches Netzwerk für Betriebliche Gesundheitsförderung, DNBGF)[134] is intended to promote health at workplaces. The DNBGF integrates existing activities and encourages the consideration of previously neglected areas. Other tasks include the exchange of and the preparation of research results and good case studies in order to convince decision makers of the benefits of workplace health promotion.

The Society for Occupational Science (Gesellschaft für Arbeitswissenschaft, GfA)[135] is an association of scientists and other interested parties with the aim of promoting the occupational science. Occupational science is concerned with the analysis, planning and design of work processes and includes the technical, organisational and social conditions of work. The GfA functions as a platform for interaction between science and practice as well as all interested social groups.

Within the Health and Work Initiative (Initiative Gesundheit und Arbeit, iga)[136] the BKK Federal Association (BKK Bundesverband, health insurance), the AOK Federal Association (AOK-Bundesverband, health insurance), the Association of Health Insurance Companies (Verband der Ersatzkassen, vdek) and the German Social Accident Insurance DGUV cooperate in OSH prevention and workplace health promotion. These four associations further develop successful procedures in projects in occupational safety and health promotion as well as workplace health promotion. For example, they develop new prevention methods for accident and health insurance companies and their member companies and evaluate these methods.

The Initiative New Quality of Work (Initiative Neue Qualität der Arbeit, INQA)[137] was created in 2002 by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and aims at improving the quality of work. For further information, please see section "Awareness Raising Networks and Campaigns“.

Besides OSH and OSH-related networks, several professional associations exist for OSH professionals, occupational physicians, labour inspectors and other experts.

The Federal Association of Independent OSH Specialists and External Services (Bundesverband Freiberuflicher Sicherheitsingenieure und Überbetrieblicher Dienste, BFSI)[138] is the professional association of OSH professionals.

The Federal Association of Independent Occupational Physicians (Bundesverband selbstständiger Arbeitsmediziner und freiberuflicher Betriebsärzte e.V., BSAFB)[139] functions as a major antagonist of the supraregional external occupational health services. The BSAFB considers the problems and characteristics of the operational activities of medical practitioners.

The German Occupational Hygiene Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Arbeitshygiene, DGAH)[140] is an interdisciplinary technical and professional association in the framework of comprehensive OSH. The association is committed to the elimination, reduction or prevention of work-related health hazards and to improving work conditions. It represents a group of occupational health and safety experts, devoted to the promotion and development of occupational hygiene.

The German Association of Occupational and Environmental Physicians (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Arbeitsmedizin und Umweltmedizin, DGAUM)[141] was established in 1962. More than 1,000 occupational physicians and environmental physicians participate in the DGAUM. The association aims at supporting the scientific exchange of knowledge and vocational training, participating in the best care available for the public and the dissemination of information in the broad public.

The Professional Association for Occupational Safety (Fachvereinigung Arbeitssicherheit, FASI)[142] represents the three pillars of OSH in Germany (employees of the labour inspections of the Federal States, employees of the prevention services of the social accident insurance institutions and OSH professionals). The FASI is the umbrella organisation of scientific-technical associations, namely, the Verein Deutscher Gewerbeaufsichtsbeamter (VDGAB), the Verein Deutscher Revisionsingenieure (VDRI) and the Verband Deutscher Sicherheitsingenieure (VDSI). Every two years the FASI organises the congress ‘Arbeitsschutz aktuell’.

The registered Association for Labour Inspectors (Verein Deutscher Gewerbeaufsichtsbeamter, VDGAB)[143] includes the inspectors of the labour inspections, environmental protection and emission control of the Federal States.

The registered Association for Inspection Engineers (Verein Deutscher Revisionsingenieure, VDRI)[144] includes the employees of the prevention services and other prevention experts of the social accident insurance institutions.

The Federation of OSH professionals (Verband für Sicherheit, Gesundheit und Umweltschutz bei der Arbeit, VDSI)[145] includes independent external OSH professionals and internal (working in companies) OSH professionals in the fields of occupational safety and health and environmental protection.

The Association of German Business and Company Doctors (Verband Deutscher Betriebs- und Werksärzte, VDBW)[146] is the professional association of plant and factory physicians and other occupational medicine physicians in active practice and science. The VDBW represents the interests of its more than 3,000 members nationwide (about one-third of all occupational physicians in Germany). It was founded in 1949.

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Links for Future Reading
• German annual statistical report on safety and health at work: http://www.baua.de/de/Informationen-fuer-die-Praxis/Statistiken/Suga/Suga.html

• Publications of the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: http://www.baua.de/de/Publikationen/Publikationen.html

• Publications of the DGUV: http://publikationen.dguv.de/dguv/udt_dguv_main.aspx?ID=0

• Accident prevention regulations for the agricultural sector: http://www.lsv.de/spv/13_praevention/04_fachinformationen/07_vorschriften/01_vsg/index.html

• Publication of WHO: Country Profile of Occupational Health System in Germany http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/178957/OSH-Profile-Germany.pdf  

• Publication of ILO: The National Profile of the Occupational Safety and Health System in Germany http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_protect/---protrav/---safework/documents/policy/wcms_186995.pdf