Which occupational safety and health structures are mandatory in the company?
Every employer is obliged to organise the safety and health on an operational basis. This page provides information on how to do this, what structures are needed for this and what instruments can be of assistance.
Whether in the office or on the construction site, employers have a duty to avert danger to the physical integrity and the lives of their employees. They must comply with a variety of laws, ordinances and regulations on occupational safety and health. Otherwise, they will be subject to severe penalties - especially if employees are harmed. To ensure that it does not come so far, it is also the duty of the employer to ensure the organisation of occupational safety and health in the company.
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Occupational safety and health includes all measures which ensure and improve work safety and health protection. Operational management of occupational safety and health is responsible for identifying needs, making decisions and eventually taking measures. This includes elements of the organisational structure, such as the Committee for Occupational Safety (ASA). This body has to be established by all companies including more than 20 employees according to § 11 Occupational Safety Act (ASiG). However, this also includes elements of process organisation, such as risk assessment according to §§ 5 and 6 of the Safety and Health at Work Act (ArbSchG). Other main pillars of occupational safety and health organisation include occupational safety specialists (Fachkraft für Arbeitssicherheit, Sifa), employees to be appointed in all companies among their employees or to be employed by contract as a third-party service, as well as occupational physicians. These specialists advise and support the company management in the field of occupational prevention and the humane design of working conditions. In addition to this advisory function, they usually also carry out their own tasks in the implementation of occupational safety measures. Employers, nonetheless, remain responsible for implementing and constantly improving everything that is prescribed and feasible in the field of occupational safety and health.
The general requirements of the ASiG on the deployment of occupational physicians and occupational safety specialists are described in detail by Provision 2 of the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV), which has been in force since 2011. This provision specifies the requirements of the ASiG with regard to the necessary safety engineering expertise of occupational safety specialists. According to this, specialist knowledge is then acquired through a Sifa course in combination with one of the required basic qualifications (master craftsman, technician or engineer). For occupational physicians, it specifies the requirements with regard to the necessary additional qualification "Works Doctor" or the specialist training "Occupational medicine".
In addition, DGUV Provision 2 primarily describes the task spectrum of management and safety engineering as well as possible support models, including the "alternative support model". This is a model for smaller companies with up to 50 employees, providing safety-related support mainly by means of trained contractors. Here, too, criteria are specified to determine the scope of care. The provision gives basic guidance for companies of all operating sizes and sectors. Companies can request adapted versions of the provision from their respective accident insurance providers.
In addition to medical and safety management, there is a number of other statutory requirements for occupational safety and health organisations. This project has been concretised by the Joint German Occupational Safety and Health Strategy (GDA), a national strategy managed by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Socials Affairs, the Federal states and the accident insurance funds, with the participation of the employers association and the trade union. These strategic partners have issued the self-assessment tool "GDA-ORGA-Check" in 2013. The GDA-ORGA-Check translates the GDA Guideline "Organisation of Occupational Safety and Health" into a version manageable for companies. It is based on the 15 test elements of the GDA guideline, which can be used by the supervisory authorities of Federal states and accident insurance bodies in their advice and monitoring. The GDA-ORGA-Check, for example, asks questions on the structural consideration of occupational safety and health in company planning and procurement processes or on the possible involvement of third-party companies in the work processes. Included in the GDA-ORGA-Check are also requirements from the Ordinance on Occupational Health Care (ArbmedVV).
Firms that want to comply with their obligation to a functioning occupational safety and health organisation in a special way can do so by the voluntary introduction of an occupational safety management system (AMS). An AMS is particularly good at supporting safety and health in management structures and procedures. The variety of AMSs on the market quickly lead to the question: "Which concept fits my business?" - In answering this question, the national guideline for occupational safety and health management systems (NLF) provides assistance. This guideline is to be understood as a framework document for the development and assessment of AMS. On the basis of the NLF, accident insurance institutions and state health and safety authorities offer companies a voluntary conformity test. Such a conformity test determines the extent to which an AMS complies with general system requirements and confirms the results of this examination in writing.