Occupational Health and Safety

The basics

Occupational safety signs

Whether working on a machine, in a warehouse, on a building site or at a desk: accidents can happen anywhere, even when we take the greatest care. That’s why occupational health and safety is indispensable in companies. Governments pass occupational health and safety legislation in order to oblige companies to minimise the risks in the workplace. Find out more about the basics of occupational health and safety in companies here.

Occupational health and safety is important in all companies

A slippery floor or someone not paying attention for a second when operating a machine: there is no way to rule out accidents in the workplace completely, no matter how careful you are. However, working conditions can also affect employees’ health even without it coming to accidents – for example if people are required to stand for too long or if workstations are not ergonomically designed. Occupational health and safety is essential in every workplace!

Of course, companies and legislators alike want to keep the risks for employees to a minimum. That’s why legislators require companies to maintain standards: by means of an EU Directive and national occupational health and safety legislation.

The basis: the EU Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Directive

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The EU has set out the framework for occupational health and safety legislation in its Member States in Directive 89/391/EEC. Prevention is the keyword in this directive: it obliges employers to prevent accidents and health risks.

One central aspect of this is the principle of risk assessment, which is introduced in the directive:

  1. Employers need to determine where possible risks could arise in the workplace. 
  2. They must then implement measures to combat these risks in an effort to avoid accidents and health risks. 
  3. This assessment must be repeated regularly, as workplaces evolve over time.

Employees are also obliged to take certain measures by the EU: for example, they are required to use/implement occupational health and safety measures in their work and must not simply neglect to use protective clothing. Employees must also report potential risks to their employer.

Implementing occupational health and safety in the company

So, what specific measures for occupational health and safety need to be implemented? First of all, the EU set employers a task: regular compilation of a risk assessment. This covers all the risks that arise from equipment, systems and the workplaces themselves, for example:

High visibility clothing
  • noise;
  • mechanical risks;
  • ergonomic stresses;
  • health risks from hazardous substances; 
  • prevention of fire and explosions.

These and other risks are compiled and evaluated. The corresponding measures for risk minimisation  are then determined: they can range from technical measures to adaptation of workflows right up to protective equipment.

Should an incident occur, the employer needs to be able to prove to the insurance company that he has complied with the statutory occupational health and safety requirements. Failure to do so can have severe consequences: in the case of serious personal injury or damage to property, the public prosecutor’s office may even launch an inquiry in some cases. Regular and proper risk evaluation along with corresponding documentation of the action is thus part and parcel of avoiding possible liability!

Instructing employees in occupational health and safety

For employees to heed the risks, they need to be aware of them of course. As such, the employer is obliged to inform them accordingly in the form of safety training when they start their job as well as after any changes to their role and when any new technologies are introduced. In addition, this safety training must be repeated once a year to ensure that employees remain aware of the risks. Employers must document this training, for example with the employee’s signature.

Workwear also contributes to occupational health and safety in the company

What’s more: Workwear is also an important element in occupational health and safety – personal protective equipment (PPE) in particular. In addition to other things, the EU Occupational Safety and Health Directive requires companies to ensure that the protective functions of clothing are checked regularly and always correspond to the latest requirements.

Companies who put their trust in boco’s rental service play it safe. We advise customers individually and discuss the requirements on workwear and protective clothing in their company in detail. Through the professional laundering, regular checking and professional repair of the clothing, we ensure that all protective functions are maintained.

Blog, Health & Safety