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Information on the Workplaces Ordinance (ArbStättV)

The Workplaces Ordinance serves for the safety and protection of the health of the employees when configuring and operating workplaces. It is intended for the employer who must ensure that the workplace does not entail any hazard for the employees and remaining hazards are kept as low as possible.

Current information

The Ordinance on the Amendment of Occupational Safety Regulations (article 1 modification of the Workplaces Ordinance) was published in the Federal Gazette (part 1 no. 56 page 2681). The ordinance came into effect on 3rd December 2016.

Objective of the Workplaces Ordinance

The Workplaces Ordinance (ArbStättV) has the objective of protecting employees in workplaces and contributing to the prevention of industrial accidents and occupational diseases. A significant part of the reported accidents can be attributed to the improper condition, equipment, and maintenance of the workplaces, e.g. falling accidents on damaged flooring and stairways, as well as transport accidents on inappropriate or too narrow traffic routes. However, severe accidents by cracking glass walls or glass inserts in doors or diseases caused by operating noise disadvantageous to the health should be avoided as well. Furthermore, the ArbStättV serves for organising the work in a humane manner. This mainly includes the requirements regarding air, climate, and illumination conditions beneficial to the health and regarding immaculate social facilities, particularly sanitary and recreation rooms.

Contents of the Workplaces Ordinance

The Workplaces Ordinance - ArbStättV (Federal Gazette I no. 44 from 24 August 2004, page 2179) contains minimum requirements for safety and health protection of the employees when configuring and operating workplaces. The ordinance is intended to implement the EC Workplaces Directive 89/654/EEC on a national basis. Additionally, Directive 92/58/EEC of the Council on the minimum requirements regarding the safety and health protection labelling at the workstation is also implemented by a dynamic reference within the Workplaces Ordinance. Furthermore, the annex IV parts A and B of the Directive 92/57/EEC of the Council on the minimum requirements for safety and health protection to be applied to temporary or mobile construction sites is implemented.

Safety and health protection

The ArbStättV consists of an enacting part with a total of 10 paragraphs and an annex containing requirements for workplaces divided into six sections. Within the ordinance, the minimum requirements of the mentioned EU directives are implemented directly. The ArbStättV specifies general protection goals instead of specific figures and detailed requirements. This provides the employer with increased freedom regarding his/her decisions for the organisation and operation of the workplace. It is particularly important that the companies must take into consideration the interests of handicapped persons regarding safety and health protection (§ 3a). A Committee on Workplaces consults the BMAS and has the task of determining rules for workplaces (§7).

The paragraph part of the ordinance further includes, in addition to provisions for configuring and operating workplaces (§3a and §4) and the regulation regarding non-smoker protection (§5), specific provisions for working spaces, sanitary rooms, break rooms, ready rooms, and first aid rooms, as well as quarters (§ 6). In chapter 1 of the annex to the ordinance, general requirements regarding the structure of the workstation are included. Amongst others, this refers to the room dimensions, floor materials, rooftops, windows, doors, and traffic routes, as well as moving walkways, loading ramps, and ladders. Here, reference is made to the safety marking and the general requirement regarding a structure and firmness of the workplace according to the type of use. Measures for protection against special hazards such as falling and incipient fires, as well as the specifications for escape and rescue routes are mentioned in the second section. The third section establishes the essential working conditions, such as movement area, arrangement and equipment of the workstations, the climate conditions, including air temperature and ventilation, as well as the illumination and the noise. The information for sanitary, break, ready, and first aid rooms, as well as quarters can be found in the fourth section. Ultimately, the fifth section addresses complementing requirements for workplaces not enclosed on all sides and located outdoors, as well as for construction sites. The last section includes measures for organising VDU workstations. This section was inserted within the framework of the most recent change to the ArbStättV in November 2016.

The execution of the ordinance is incumbent upon the occupational health and safety regulating authorities (Trade Supervisory Boards and agencies for occupational health and safety, respectively). With the entry into force of the BGV A1 Grundsätze der Prävention (basic prevention principles) (hitherto VBG 1) since 1 January 2004, the accident insurers also obtained the legal basis for fulfilling their prevention task with the help of official occupational health and safety regulations.

The technical rules for workplaces are an essential aid for the practical implementation of the ArbStättV.

Technical rules for workplaces (ASR)

The technical rules for workplaces (workplace rules - ASR) describe measures and practical implementation aids and explain how the protection goals and requirements regarding the safety and health of the employees when configuring and operating workplaces included in the Workstation Ordinance can be achieved by the employer.

The ARSs include the current state of the art at the time of publication. They make the performance of the risk assessment pursuant to § 3 of the ArbStättV and the definition of the suitable measures for the health and safety of the employees within the company easier for the employer. If the employer uses the ASRs, he/she may assume that he/she complies with the provisions of the ArbStättV regarding the field of application of the ASR (presumption of conformity).

However, the Workplaces Ordinance does not specify any obligation for applying the ASRs. The employer may discretely deviate from the specifications of the ASRs and meet the protection goal specifications of the Workplaces Ordinance, including the annex, differently. In this case, he/she must eliminate or reduce the determined hazards the employees are or may be exposed to differently in such a way that the same level of protection is achieved as with the ASRs ("state of the art").

Where the announcement of the workplace rules includes new requirements based on the continuous development of the state of the art and the measures may only be implemented in the already configured and operated workplaces with comprehensive modifications or significant expenditure only, the question of preservation of the status quo arises. The question of whether the employee must adapt the workplace in accordance with the new rules or whether the existing workplace continues to comply with the requirements of the Workplaces Ordinance may only be answered by repeating the risk assessment.