The acts and regulations governing occupational safety and health are in many cases transpositions of European Union directives into national law. In many sectors, however, the standard of occupational safety and health in Germany exceeds the minimum European requirements. The objective of the German occupational safety and health act (ArbSchG) is to assure and improve the safety and health of all employees at work by means of suitable OSH measures. In order to support the requirements of the safety at work act, numerous statutory regulations have been issued relating to plants, work equipment and tasks. These include the regulation on working premises, the regulation on plant safety, and the regulation on hazardous substances. These regulations form the basis of occupational safety and health activity within companies.
Volume 7 of the German Social Code (SGB VII) formulates the statutory mandate for the work of the German Social Accident Insurance Institutions in Germany.
Accident prevention regulations
The accident prevention regulations (UVVs) are issued by the German Social Accident Insurance institutions. A small number of these apply to all sectors of the economy, such as the regulation governing prevention principles; others are geared to particular sectors, establishments or areas of activity.
The accident prevention regulations are legally binding upon the employers concerned and the insured individuals. Should employers or insured individuals contravene accident prevention regulations deliberately or through gross negligence, the German Social Accident Insurance institutions may impose a fine of up to €10,000. The same applies should a plant fail to follow directions issued for example by a labour inspector from a German Social Accident Insurance Institution in the course of a plant inspection. The fine does not exclude the possibility of further civil and criminal proceedings.
Rules and information
The rules governing safety and health at the workplace describe how the regulations may be implemented in practice. Provided the employer observes the rules, it may generally be assumed that machinery and plant are being operated in accordance with the state of the art. In the event of an accident, the employer is thus able to prove that he is not guilty of negligence.
For actual implementation within companies, the rules are supplemented by information, written in clear language and accompanied by illustrative examples. These include codes of practice and sector-specific checklists.