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European and International Occupational Safety and Health

July 20, 2011

German occupational safety and health law is based largely on European and international legal standards

German occupational safety and health law is based largely on European and international legal standards. The Treaty Establishing the European Community requires Member States to promote the improvement of the working environment to protect workers' health and safety. To help realise this objective, the European Council issues directives in which it lays down minimum standards in the field of occupational safety and health in the workplace that are to be transposed into national law.

The best-known directive is Council Directive 89/391/ECC of 12 June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work - the so-called framework directive. Over the years, individual directives have been issued for a number of different areas of occupational safety and health in the workplace (such as workplaces, work equipment, personal protective equipment, display screen equipment, the manual handling of loads, the handling of dangerous substances, biological agents, construction sites, and safety signs).

Other international laws, particularly the instruments of the International Labour Organization (conventions, recommendations), also contain provisions with legal force in the area of safety and health at work. As a rule, EU directives and ILO conventions are not directly applied. The legislative and regulatory bodies of the respective country must transpose them into national law. In Germany, this was accomplished with the Occupational Safety Act and the regulations that have been issued on the basis of this law.

Supported by some 40 participating states and organisations, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work has built a global network of know-how and expertise in the occupational safety and health field. All EU Member States, EFTA states, Turkey, countries overseas and international organisations are members of this network. Their websites offer current, quality-tested information on safety and health protection, such as legislation and regulations, (EU) strategies and current priorities, good practice solutions, research, statistics and publications. These can be accessed via a pull-down menu on the respective homepage.

The European Network - Germany is part of the information network of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work which has its offices in Bilbao, Spain. The Focal Point office in Division IIIb2 of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs coordinates this cooperation. Members of the national network are:

  • Länder Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (LASI)
  • German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV)
  • Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA)
  • Federal Association of the Statutory Accident Insurance Institutions of the Agricultural Sector (BLB)
  • Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB)
  • Confederation of German Employers' Associations (BDA)