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The History of the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) is a federal authority within the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales, BMAS). As a departmental research institution of the Federal Government, it is responsible for all matters involving occupational safety and health at work, including the adjustment of working conditions to human needs.

The current structure of the BAuA is the result of the merging of two former federal institutions in 1996: the Federal Institute for Occupational Medicine (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsmedizin, BAfAM), based in Berlin, and the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz), based in Dortmund. This merger helped to better interlink expert perspectives on work and health from different disciplines, such as health science, engineering, natural and social sciences. Concurrently, the German Safety and Health at Work Act came into force, which was considered as the fundamental law of modern safety and health at work. Accordingly, the call for more preventive measures led to changes in conceptual reasoning and policy implementation in the field of safety and health.

Dortmund

Dortmund

The history of the Dortmund Federal Institute goes back to 1949 with the Central Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, in the city of Soest. In 1951, its name was changed to the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. In 1957, it was relocated to Koblenz. Since the end of the 1960s, occupational safety has been given greater attention. With the implementation of the German Works Constitution Act, established findings in the field of occupational science were taken into consideration for work design; research activities were increased within the scope of the research programme entitled “humanisation of work”.
In light of this, the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Accident Research was established in Dortmund, at the end of 1971. The Federal Institute subsequently assumed further responsibilities within the field of chemical law, resulting in the establishment of what is now known as the Federal Office for Chemicals, as part of the BAuA. In addition to these sovereign tasks, today’s DASA has been established, with an exhibition featuring the “World of Employment”, in order to inform the general public about the design of human workplace.

Dortmund Office

Berlin

Berlin Office

As a successor to the GDR’s Central Institute for Occupational Health, the Federal Institute for Occupational Medicine was established in 1991 and aligned with the requirements of a modern departmental research institution of the Federal Government through expansion and modernisation. Its predecessor, the Central Institute founded in 1961, consisted of two institutes: the Institutes for Occupational Hygiene and Occupational Physiology, as well as the Clinic and Polyclinic of occupational diseases. The GDR’s Central Institute dates back to the Central Institute of Social and Industrial Hygiene which was founded in 1948, under Soviet military administration, and located on the grounds of the former Kaiserin-Auguste-Victoria hospital. During the subsequent period, this institute evolved into a Centre for advanced training in occupational health (Academy of Social Hygiene, Occupational Hygiene and Advanced Medical Training). The current BAuA facility in Berlin-Lichtenberg has been used for occupational medicine since 1925 when the first department for work-related diseases was established in a German clinic.

Berlin Office

Dresden

Dresden Office

The GDR’s Central Institute of Occupational Safety in Dresden was disbanded in 1990 and integrated into the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health as an external branch located in Dresden, albeit having been considerably downsized already. The Central Institute was established in 1961 as the successor to the Institute of Labour Economics and Occupational Safety Research, an institute which had been founded in the same location in 1954 under the control of the GDR’s State Secretariat for Labour and Wages. The BAuA was relocated to Dresden in 1998, into the former Saxon military courthouse in Dresden’s Albertstadt district.

Dresden Office

The Federal Institute originated in the "Permanent Exhibition of Workers' Welfare" in Berlin. This exhibition was set up in 1903 on the basis of former exhibitions and evolved into an important institution for national occupational safety during the time of the Weimar Republic. Following the expansion and modernisation of the establishment in 1927, its name was changed into the German Museum of Occupational Safety. At the same time, it began to take on increasingly more advisory and research tasks for the German Reich's Ministry of Labour of the Weimar Republic. As such, in 1930, the museum became a more senior national authority, directly subordinated to the German Minister of Labour. Finally, its name was changed to the "Reich" Authority for Occupational Safety in 1939, and the institution was ranked as a supreme authority within the Reich's Ministry of Labour.

The latest reorganisation of the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health took place on January 1st, 2009. In this process, the BAuA refined its profile as a departmental research institution of the federal government under the guiding principle, "Research of work and health". This guideline summarised and expanded more effectively the research and development tasks in the specialist areas. At the same time, a scientific advisory board was established, a research and development programme was set up for the first time, collaborations with scientific institutions were increased and a broadened international scope was pushed forth, especially in the area of chemical safety. The BAuA is currently working on five strategic action areas. 

  • Ensuring safe use of chemicals and products
  • Adapting working conditions to the needs of humans
  • Avoiding work-related diseases - promotion of health and workability
  • Understanding the impact of a changing working world and further developing occupational-safety instruments,
  • Communicating information on the working world and occupational safety