­Health and Safety at Work Act (Arbeit­nehmer­Innen­schutz­gesetz) and regulations

The Health and Safety at Work Act was enacted in 1994 during Austria's accession to the European Union, and has been in effect since 1 January 1995. It constitutes an equivalent to Directive 89/391/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage the safety and health of workers and individual EU directives, and introduced new elements and concepts into Austrian occupational safety and health legislation. Further details on safety and health for employees are included in the implementing regulations of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The Health and Safety at Work Act applies to the employment of all those who work as part of an employment relationship or training relationship. It also covers agency workers. Other legal provisions apply to those employed in the offices of federal and provincial government and local or municipal councils, in agriculture or forestry, in private households, and also to those who work from home.

The Health and Safety at Work Act embodies the principles of worker protection, such as the general obligations of employers, e.g. the obligation to assess risks and how workers are deployed, providing information and instructions, the principles of prevention and the design of safe and healthy working conditions.

The sections of the act relate inter alia to

  • Workplaces and building sites
  • Work equipment
  • Chemical and biological agents
  • Health surveillance
  • Preventive services

A large number of regulations were enacted on the basis of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, a part of which are directly related to the implementation of European directives such as the Directive on noise and vibrations or the Directive on explosive atmospheres.

Workplaces and building sites

The legal provisions on workplaces apply to all physical structures and places on the company premises in which workplaces are set up or to which employees have access as part of their work. That also means outdoor structures like caravans, containers, site-huts, air-supported structures or other similar facilities. Provisions cover amongst other things workrooms, corridors, stairways, storage rooms, machine rooms, toilets, changing and recreation rooms as well as all roads and walkways outdoors. Unlike the EU-Directive 89/654/EEC, on which it is based, the Austrian regulation  (only in German) gives concrete specifications, dimensions or values. 

In addition to the general provisions on workplaces, additional rules apply to building sites. Although part of the regulation is based on EU-Directive 92/57/EEC, the Austrian regulation on building sites goes more into detail. Due to the risk for serious occupational accidents, a larger part of the regulation addresses the protection against fall from heights.

Work equipment

Work equipment includes all machines, apparatus, tools, devices and systems, which are for the use of the employees. These also include, for example: means of transport for persons or goods, lifts, ladders, scaffolding, boilers, pressurised containers, combustion plants, containers, silos, delivery lines or pipelines, automatic doors and gates as well as lift gates, tilting gates and roller shutters.

Work equipment must be suitable for the respective work in terms of safety and comply with the relevant legal provisions. If work equipment carries a CE sign, employers can assume that these conditions are met unless they have received other information.

Special care has to be taken when installing work equipment to avoid that workers are endangered, e.g. by moving parts of the work equipment itself or by moving parts of other work equipment in their environment, but also by other risks like electrical current, radiation, chemical substances or chips splintering off.

For some work equipment there are special requirements regarding inspection. 

Special protective measures apply to young people and apprentices when using work equipment.

Chemical and biological agents

Occupational safety and health law covers the use of all dangerous substances irrespective of whether they

  • are bought, e.g.as input material, or are created in the course of work, like welding fumes (chemical agents)
  • are used deliberately, e.g. in a laboratory, or are found in different work environments and with a multitude of tasks like waste sorting (biological substances).

The basis for occupational safety is therefore a thorough risk assessment. Employers must ensure that they know whether there are dangerous substances in the workplace, which properties they have and how high the risk is. They have to take into account that substances might have more than one hazard property and that there might be combined effects if more than one substance is used. In case of doubt, information has to be obtained from the manufacturers or importers.

A variety of occupational safety and health provisions is linked to the presence of dangerous substances, like those on the protection of pregnant and breastfeeding women, and on the protection of young workers (only in German).

Special obligations also rest on employers regarding health surveillance (see below) and record keeping.

Health surveillance

For some jobs or tasks it is necessary to examine the health of workers before starting to work (Eignungs- und Folgeuntersuchung). If the outcome of the test is negative, the respective workers must not be employed or they have to be assigned other tasks. These examinations have to be repeated after set intervals of time. This applies to tasks:

  • with a risk of an occupational disease where the health surveillance is of preventive use (e.g. lead, welding fumes, benzene, crystalline silica, etc.)
  • with frequent and prolonged use of respirators
  • within the framework of gas rescue services
  • with heat that places a particular strain on the body
  • in rooms in which the oxygen concentration is reduced for the purpose of fire prevention

Equivalent provisions apply to dangerous noise.

If workers are exposed to other dangerous agents, physical effects or burdensome working conditions they are entitled to undergo a medical examination, on their request.

Regulation on health surveillance

Letzte Änderung am: 14.07.2020