What is the Occupational Health and Safety Act?
The Occupational Health and Safety Act transposes the European Framework Directive on Occupational Health and Safety 89/391/EEC into German law. As the name suggests, the Act serves to ensure protection and health for almost all employees in the context of their employment or work. Accordingly, the full name of the law is "Gesetz über die Durchführung von Maßnahmen des Arbeitsschutzes zur Verbesserung der Sicherheit und des Gesundheitsschutzes der Beschäftigten bei der Arbeit", or "ArbSchG" for short. Only a few occupational groups are not protected by this law; these include domestic workers in private households or workers on seagoing vessels.
Like every law, this one is promulgated in the Federal Law Gazette (Part 1), known as the Federal Law Gazette for short.
What does the Occupational Health and Safety Act regulate?
Roughly speaking, the law regulates which conditions must be fulfilled at the workplace so that an employee can work safely, accidents and work-related illnesses can be prevented and working conditions can be designed and assessed according to fixed basic principles. The central element in occupational safety and health is the so-called risk assessment.
Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, in turn, there are a number of occupational health and safety ordinances, orders and other occupational health and safety laws. One occupational safety ordinance is the Workplace Ordinance. It regulates the basic requirements for setting up and operating workplaces (89/654/EEC), for the protection of non-smokers or for the furnishing of work, sanitary and other rooms. The Display Screen Equipment Regulation (89/655/EEC), for example, defines what a display screen workstation is and how it should be set up, and the aim of the Load Handling Regulation (90/269/EEC) is to minimise health hazards such as back disorders during the manual handling of loads. All ordinances and regulations have one thing in common: they serve to protect the health of workers and employees.
Duties and rights under occupational health and safety law
In addition to certain regulations regarding workplace equipment and facilities, there are a number of other obligations for the employer. These include occupational health precautions, first aid and emergency measures or even training so that a job can be carried out without further ado. However, workers must also comply with regulations. For example, they have a duty of care to employees and colleagues and may only use machines, equipment, materials, etc. as intended.
Furthermore, the Occupational Health and Safety Act regulates which breaks an employee is entitled to and how the duration is to be determined. This includes not only short breaks, but also time intervals between individual shifts, the so-called recreation and requirement periods. Holidays, by the way, are not regulated by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, but by the Federal Holidays Act.
What is the Joint German OSH Strategy?
The Joint German Occupational Safety and Health Strategy (GDA) is an initiative of the Federal Government, the Länder and accident insurers. The GDA was launched primarily to create incentives to comply with the OSH Act and to strengthen the safety and health of employees. Various programmes and optimisation of advice and monitoring support employers in this. In addition, one of the alliance's goals is to continuously modernise the German OSH system even as the world of work is changing at an ever faster pace.
What is statutory accident insurance?
Should something happen to an employee in the course of his or her work despite following all the requirements described in the Occupational Health and Safety Act, this may be a case for statutory accident insurance. The statutory accident insurance (GUV) falls under the social security system and has the purpose of initially preventing occupational accidents or occupational diseases. If an accident at work or an occupational disease nevertheless occurs, the statutory accident insurance covers medical or occupational rehabilitation benefits, in certain cases pension payments, wage compensation payments and the like. Incidentally, not only salaried employees are compulsorily insured under the GUV, but also kindergarten children, pupils, students or blood donors, among others.
Diseases at the workplace despite occupational health and safety law
Long office hours, sitting in a rigid posture and lack of exercise are causes of widespread work-related illnesses such as Back pain and back pain, but also obesity, cardiovascular problems or diabetes. Here, occupational health and safety legislation can actually do little.
Anyone who is at risk in this respect can prevent it by Movement in their daily office routine. To ensure that work does not have to be interrupted for movement at the workplace, it is advisable to use office chairs that allow intuitive movements even when seated, such as the Swopper and 3Dee active chairs from Aeris. Thanks to the patented 3D technology, movement is encouraged in all directions and one-sided pressure loads on the back are eliminated. Intervertebral disc are eliminated. By the way, sitting in motion strengthens both the abdominal and the back muscles. So anyone who fears that their office chair or standing aid in the production hall is not doing their back any good should talk to their direct supervisor or employer about this. After all, it is also in the interest of a company that its employees do not miss work due to illness and thus cause more costs than the investment in an active office chair.