Support from preventive services
If possible, support should be provided by internal preventive specialists, in other words by persons who are already employed in the company. External experts can only be brought in if there are no suitable specialists already in the company. External experts are either self-employed or work for a prevention centre, a safety centre or an occupational health centre.
Legislation lays down that workers must be looked after by an occupational physician and safety specialists. In workplaces with more than 50 employees there is a statutory minimum number of deployment hours (prevention hours). Other experts can also be brought in if necessary, such as occupational psychologists, chemists or ergonomists. Regular inspection visits are sufficient for smaller workplaces.
Special training is required to work as a safety expert or an occupational physician. The duration and contents of these training courses are laid down by the relevant legislation.
Preventive specialists have the task of advising employers, employees, safety representatives and works council members on all aspects of occupational safety and health. However, the ultimate responsibility for these matters always remains with the employer. Employers have to make the necessary information and documents available so that safety experts and occupational physicians can carry out their work. These include documents on safety and health protection, reports on accidents at work or the results of measurements (noise, dangerous materials or substances etc.) and examinations.
Preventive specialists have to be consulted on all safety and health issues, and particularly with regard to the following points:
- The planning of workplaces
- The procurement and changing of work equipment
- The introduction or change of work processes and agents
- The testing and selection of personal protective equipment
- Issues related to occupational psychology, ergonomics and hygiene at work (particularly the design of work places, work processes and procedures).
- The organisation of fire protection and evacuation
- The organisation of first aid
- The employment of people with disabilities (change of jobs, reintegration)
- Determining and assessing risks
- Laying down measures for the prevention of risks
- Organising the instruction of employees and drawing up operating instructions
- Administrative procedures related to occupational safety and health
Deployment times and support via inspection tours
The minimum number of deployment hours (prevention hours) in larger workplaces depends on the number of employees there and the level of risk (workload). In the case of low levels of danger, such as in offices, 1.2 hours per employee are stipulated, while in all other jobs 1.5 hours per employee are laid down. A supplement of half an hour is added for all employees who have to work at night at least fifty times a year. The total number of prevention hours is primarily divided up between occupational physicians (at least 35 %) and safety experts (at least 40%). Other specialists can be deployed in the remaining time.
In companies with up to 50 employees a different programme is used. In this case preventive work is carried out via inspection visits which take place either once a year (11 - 50 employees) or every other year (1 - 10 employees). These inspection visits are carried out jointly by an occupational physician and a safety expert.
Companies of this size can also take advantage of free support from one of the accident prevention centres operated by the work accident insurance institutions.
Under certain conditions, the employers of companies with up to fifty employees can also carry out accident prevention work themselves.