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Ordinance on Hazardous Substances

The Ordinance on Hazardous Substances protects employees and the public from hazardous substances.

What Does the Ordinance on Hazardous Substances Regulate?

The German Ordinance on Hazardous Substances (Gefahrstoffverordnung – GefStoffV) (2008) regulates the protective measures for employees working with hazardous substances. It is an occupational safety regulation, but it also covers general concerns about the population’s health protection.

The legal basis is the Chemicals Act (ChemG) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (ArbSchG). The Ordinance on Hazardous Substances also transposes several European directives into national law. Environmental protection is not the focus of the ordinance but is included.

The Technical Rules further specify the Ordinance on Hazardous Substances for Hazardous Substances (TRGS). The resulting regulatory system covers all the extensive requirements for the standardization of hazardous substances, the requirements for handling dangerous substances and the obligations of the employer.

What Is the Aim of the Ordinance on Hazardous Substances?

The Hazardous Substances Ordinance is intended to increase the protection of employees and consumers from hazardous substances. This goal is to be achieved by bans and restrictions on the production and use of certain hazardous substances, regulations on the packaging and labeling of dangerous substances and mixtures, and protective measures for handling these substances.

This results in a division of the Ordinance on Hazardous Substances into regulations for the placing on the market and regulations for handling hazardous substances.

What Are the Obligations for Employers?

Employers are the addressees of the Ordinance on Hazardous Substances. Within the framework of the risk assessment, they must determine, following § 5 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (ArbSchG), in the general assessment of working conditions, whether employees handle or are exposed to hazardous substances during their work or whether such chemicals are produced or released during their work.

If this is the case, all hazards posed by the hazardous substances to the employees’ safety and health must be assessed and appropriate protective measures implemented. A competent person must be consulted for the proper assessment of the substance-related hazards. This can be done by recourse to specialist personnel appointed following the Work Protection Law (ASiG), such as the occupational safety specialist or company doctor.

The implementation of the protective measures must be followed according to the STOP principle:

  • S stands for substitution, i.e. the substance or the working process can be replaced.
  • T stands for technical measures at the hazard source, such as ventilation, exhaust, extraction, encapsulation, etc.
  • O stands for organizational measures such as instructions, limitation of exposure duration and frequency.
  • P stands for personal protection measures such as the provision of suitable personal protective equipment (PPE).

According to the Ordinance on Hazardous Substances, the minimization principle applies to all protective measures: the employer must reduce the risk to employees’ safety and health to a minimum.

What Are the Obligations for Employees?

According to § 15 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employees have to take care of their safety and health and that of third parties affected by their actions and omissions following the instruction and instructions given by the employer(s). This includes the safe handling of hazardous substances and the use of the protective equipment provided and installed protective devices.

What Are Hazardous Substances According to the Ordinance on Hazardous Substances?

Hazardous substances are those substances, preparations and products that possess specific physical or chemical properties, such as corrosive, toxic, flammable, explosive, carcinogenic. Detailed information on the criteria can be found in § 3 of the Hazardous Substances Ordinance or Annex I of Regulation (EC) 1272/2008 (CLP Regulation).

However, there are also hazardous substances in GefStoffVer which are only produced or released during the work activity, such as wood dusts and welding fumes.

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