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Operational Instruction

With operational instructions, employers inform employees about internal workplace hazards.

What is an operational instruction?

An operational instruction is a set of instructions or information issued by the employer(s) to the employees of a company about internal hazards caused by chemical and biological substances, specific machines, vehicles or technical equipment. They also provide information on how employees should deal with them.

The operational instructions aim to minimize accidents and injuries in connection with work equipment and hazardous substances. If an employer does not draw up operational instructions, this can be punished as an administrative offence with a fine.

The requirement for operational instructions is based on the following laws:

Who is responsible for the operational instructions?

The responsibility for occupational safety lies with the employer. According to § 13, paragraph 2 ArbSchG, it is possible to transfer employer duties to an appropriately qualified person who will then perform these duties on his responsibility. However, the employer retains a reduced responsibility.

TRGS 555 “Operating instructions and information for employees” states under point 3.1 (5) that the employer is responsible for the preparation of operating instructions. He/she may seek advice from occupational safety specialists, company physicians or other experts (e.g. occupational safety authorities, accident insurance institutions, consultancies). The works council also has a right of co-determination when it comes to the content.

What must all be included in an operational instruction?

Every operational instruction manual must be geared to the individual workplace, be straightforward and easy to understand. They provide employees with all the information they need to prevent health hazards and ensure safe handling of plant and equipment.

This information is based on the accident and health hazards resulting from the risk assessment and the resulting protective measures. The operating instructions are not to be equated with operating instructions prepared by manufacturers of plant and equipment.

Depending on the source of danger (hazardous materials, operating instructions, machines, working procedures), there are differences in the contents and structure of operating instructions. The following structure and contents can be found in every operational instruction:

  1. Area of application
  2. Hazards for the environment and humans
  3. Behavior in case of disturbances
  4. Behavior in case of accidents, first aid, emergency numbers
  5. Proper disposal and/or maintenance
  6. Consequences in case of non-observance

Employers must be involved in the preparation of the operating instructions, including:

  • Occupational safety and accident prevention regulations
  • Operating instructions from manufacturers
  • Safety data sheets
  • Safety and occupational health regulations

Which formal requirements must an operating instruction meet?

Operating instructions must always be available in written form and accessible to employees. It is essential that employees quickly understand the content of operating instructions through form and language.

The language level of the employees should be taken into account, for example, by avoiding unnecessary paraphrases and foreign words. The operating instructions should be translated for employees speaking foreign languages.

An instruction manual should not exceed two DIN A4 pages. If several operating instructions are necessary for a company, they should be numbered consecutively so that employees can keep track of them. They should also be clear, simple and have a uniform graphic design. Pictograms and symbols can also help to convey information.

How often do operating instructions have to be checked?

An instruction manual is not limited in its validity period. It must, therefore, be adapted regularly to new occupational health and safety conditions. For specific cases, such as maintenance and cleaning work, operating instructions may be valid for a limited period.

It is advisable to check the operating instructions in a predetermined cycle. The employer is responsible for this. Appropriate competent persons can advise him/her on this.

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