What is the Work Protection Law?
The Work Protection Law regulates the employer’s occupational health and safety obligations and the duties and rights of employees, as well as the monitoring of occupational health and safety under this Act. It pursues the goal of improving and safeguarding all employees’ health through occupational health and safety measures.
The Work Protection Law is a German law that implements the EU directives on occupational health and safety. It applies to most areas of activity. Exceptions are domestic workers in private households and, under certain circumstances, workers employed on seagoing vessels or in companies to which the German Mining Law applies.
Employers shall take necessary measures regarding occupational safety and prevent occupational accidents, occupational diseases, and other work-related health hazards. In doing so, they shall strive to improve safety at work and the health of employees.
If a company fails to comply with the Work Protection Law, a heavy fine must be expected, as well as possible imprisonment of up to one year for those responsible.
What does the Work Protection Law cover?
The Work Protection Law has been in existence since 1996 and is usually amended every two years. It has been deliberately drafted broadly so that companies can adapt the provisions to their individual needs.
Each company is required to individually assess what potential hazards and risks may arise during daily activities in the workplace. Accordingly, the measures to be taken are defined, which are necessary for occupational health and safety. Compliance with the Work Protection Law also includes risk assessment and prevention.
Important contents of the Work Protection Law
The basic contents of the Work Protection Law include the following topics:
- classical types of hazards
- the design of work and manufacturing processes
- since 2013, the assessment of mental stress
- the effectiveness of preventive measures shall be reviewed
- the annual instruction of employees
Regulations in the Work Protection Law
The Work Protection Law provides the legal basis for the field of “health and safety” in the workplace. The starting point for the issuance of legal ordinances from the Work Protection Law is paragraphs 18 and 19. These legal ordinances lay down specific provisions for the various workplaces and activities. The following ordinances, among others, have been issued on this enabling basis:
- Workplace Ordinance
- Construction Site Ordinance
- Ordinance on Industrial Safety and Health
- Ordinance on Work with Visual Display Units
- Dangerous Substances Ordinance
- Noise and Vibration Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance
Obligations and rights of employees in the Work Protection Law
Just like employers, also workers bear the responsibility for a conscientious execution of safety measures based on the risk assessment of the company. All protective measures taken are to be carried out conscientiously for the sake of their safety and that of their work colleagues.Work equipment, especially machines, tools, and means of transport are to be used properly.
Employees have the right to ask the employer questions about health protection issues and regulations and make suggestions about occupational safety. If they do not feel adequately protected at work, they can turn to the competent authority for occupational health and safety.
In Germany, the Occupational Safety and Health Law also includes important provisions of the Works Constitution Act. This describes, among other things, an elected company executive committee consisting of employers and employees who implement the Work Protection Law in the interests of the entire company.