Germany: EWCO comparative analytical report on information, consultation and participation of workers concerning health and safety

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 21 Οκτώβριος 2010


Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

In 2008, the Common German Occupational Safety Strategy was agreed upon by the federal ministries of labour and of the interior, several regional states, the statutory accident insurers and the social partners. The strategy clearly relates health and safety issues at the workplace to prevention and ‘well-being at work’. Whilst the new strategy does not single out SMEs as a specific target group, research shows that SMEs often lag behind in promoting health at the workplace. Especially, how they address psychological strains and stress-related health problems at the establishment level leaves room for improvement.

Background information

The general issue

According to several studies (Walters, 2002, HSE, 2005), Health and Safety management shows significant differences between large companies and SMEs. In these latter, especially among micro-enterprises (less than 10 employees) and small ones (10-49 employees), H&S regulation is a lot of times perceived more as a burden to comply rather than a competitive opportunity because of stronger pressure over costs, company struggle for survival, lack of both financial and human resources. Further, in micro and small firms employers do not always own adequate OSH managerial skills and knowledge and they often see with suspicious the support offered by public agencies.

The extent of workers’ involvement is ambiguous: on the one hand could be easier because of direct relationship with ownership, while lower skills and shorter average tenure and the lack of OSH workplace representatives, due to legal threshold and/or non-unionization, make workers less involved in taking care of H&S on the other.

Regulatory Framework

The Health and Safety at work Framework Council Directive 89/391 introduces general prevention principles applicable to all occupational risks, aimed to ensure a higher degree of protection of workers at work through the implementation of preventive measures to guard against accidents at work and occupational diseases. The directive establishes the obligation on employers to adequately inform (art. 10) and to consult his/her employees and their representatives (art.11) by allowing them “to take part in discussions on all questions relating to safety and health at work”, thus including their right to make proposals and to a balanced participation. Finally, the directive sets an obligation on the employer to adequately train at his expenses his/her employees (art. 12) and their representatives, with regular repeals in order to take into account of technological and organizational changes and to the insurgence or changes of new risks.

The H&S at work strategy 2007-2013 stresses the importance of SMEs, high-risk sectors and subcontracting in achieving the target of a 25% cut of work accidents within 2013: in particular, SMEs are seen as more vulnerable since they have “fewer resources to put complex systems of protection in place, while some of them tend to be more affected by the negative impact of health and safety problems”.

The strategy envisages a simplification and adaptation of the existing legislation to SMEs and various forms of support in its implementation, such as dissemination of good practices, training of employees, development of simple risk assessment tools and guidelines, access to affordable and good quality prevention services, and economic incentives. Labour inspectors should play a twofold role both “as intermediaries to promote better compliance with the legislation in SMEs, primarily through education, persuasion and encouragement” and “when necessary, through coercive means”.

Member States are invited to “take steps to facilitate access to good quality prevention services” particularly in favour of SMEs, to improve health surveillance of workers while avoiding inflating the formal requirements, to incorporate into their national strategies specific measures (financial assistance, training tailored to individual needs, etc.). Further, Member States and the social partners are encouraged to promote “the practical, rapid implementation of the results of basic research by making simple preventive instruments available to enterprises and in particular to SMEs”.

The second programme of Community action in the field of health (2008–2013) and the 2008 "European Pact for Mental Health and Well-being" , together with framework agreements on work-related stress (2004) and violence, bullying and harassment at workplace (2007) show both an important shift from the original notion of H&S, as stated by the 1989 directive, towards a more general “well-being” approach, and the prominent role played by social dialogue in its advance.

Figures and trends

Eurostat figures over work accidents (2002-2006) show the highest incidence rates in medium companies (50-249 employees), while micro-enterprises (1-9 employees) show the highest rates over fatal accidents. These trends seem to depend on the impact of manufacturing, construction and transports, while in the other services industries trends are not so clear-cut. However, Eurostat figures by industry and company size are not complete in order to provide an adequate assessment over time. Further, new risks emerge and work-related diseases (WRDs) evolve from the so-called “hygienic” risk factors towards “psychosocial” ones reflecting changes in working conditions.

Similarly Eurofound 4th EWCS does not show a clear-cut relationship between work accidents, risks for health and work-related diseases with company size. When asked “Do you think your health or safety is at risk because of your work?” (question 32) and “Does your work affect your health, or not?” (question 33), respondents working in small companies (10-49 employees) report the lowest scores. However, the share of respondents not well informed on H&S (question 12) declines from 15.3% in companies with 2 to 9 employees to 11.2% in companies over 250 employees: on average, such a share tend to increase since 1995 (see the full descriptive report). Similarly, both training and involvement over organizational issues are positively correlated with company size and could display indirectly a positive effect on H&S. Composition effects with respect to age (small companies show younger population), and industry (wider proportion of SMEs in services) should be taken into account.


1. National settings and regulatory framework

- How is the 1989 Framework directive on H / S and in particular information / consultation practically implemented in SMEs? Any data available? Do administrative reports exist in particular from the Labour Inspectorate?

- Does its implementation in micro and small companies follow similar patterns than in medium ones?

- Is H&S the current focus of legislation or did it evolve by incorporating “well-being at work” as the basic concept?

- The Community strategy health and safety at work for 2007-2012 calls upon the member states to work out and implement strategies to reduce the number of industrial accidents and occupational diseases; are the SMEs specially singled out in the national strategies and cooperation between social partners underlined / foreseen / called for?

In 2008, a Common German Occupational Safety Strategy (Gemeinsame Deutsche Arbeitsschutzstrategie, GDA) was formulated by the National Occupational Safety Conference (Nationale Arbeitsschutzkonferenz, NKA), institutionalising cooperation between the federal ministries of labour and of the interior, several regional states, the statutory accident insurers and the social partners. It focuses on prevention and ‘well-being at work’. The GDA’s working programme comprises eleven strategic objectives encompassing topics related to occupational health problems or health, safety and accident prevention in certain occupations (office work) or sectors. The NKA is to collect data on these eleven problem areas. Although SMEs were not singled out by the strategy, the data is expected to enable differentiation by establishment size.

To see how the 1989 Framework Directive was implemented in Germany, it is necessary to consider a number of national laws and directives. For example, the Work Safety and Protection Law (Arbeitsschutzgesetz, ArbSchG) was introduced in 1996. Defining, amongst other things, the employees’ right to information, the law also represented a change in the legislative focus. Conventional measures averting specific dangers at the workplace were to be replaced by more general and longer term preventive measures. The Occupational Safety Act (Arbeitssicherheitsgesetz, ASiG) and the Social Law Book (Sozialgesetzbuch, SGB) also provide for consultation rights (see section 2).

The Workplaces Decree (Arbeitsstättenverordnung, ArbStättV) and subordinated directives provide rules on safety techniques, industrial medicine and occupational hygiene, etc. The decree which was introduced in 2004 directs establishments in manufacturing industry, trades and crafts, in insurance and the commercial sector to comply with a number of directives issued by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales, BMAS). Amongst other things, establishments are to:

  • comply with the requirements of Framework Council Directive 89/391,

  • avoid duplicate or contradictory regulations,

  • incorporate new (technical and scientific) expertise.

The Workplaces Decree left the formulation of concrete measures and sector-specific regulations to the Committee on Workplaces (Ausschuss für Arbeitsstätten, ASTA). ASTA operates under the aegis of the Federal Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA) and consists of private and public employer and union representatives, representatives of the federal states, statutory industrial accident insurers, other experts and researchers. The committee advises the BMAS on OSH issues.

As laid down in the Workplaces Decree, it is ASTA’s task to prepare the so-called technical rules for workplaces (Technische Regeln für Arbeitsstätten, ASR), which are drawn up when more detailed regulations than those provided by the Workplaces Decree are needed at the establishment level. Technical rules issued by the committee are binding on all establishments covered by the Workplaces Decree.

The BMAS publishes an annual report on the development of health and safety at work in Germany. However, neither is this designed to assess the situation in SMEs nor does it offer a detailed critique of the amendments. Nevertheless, other studies provide some insights. Since the analysis of research results in section 4 paints a more detailed picture, I will only refer to one criticism in this section.

In 2004 Ulrich Faber (Faber, 2004) criticised the fact that concrete measures were not stipulated by the Workplaces Decree itself, but left to the ASTA. He also criticised the Workplaces Decree’s provision that an employer was no longer obliged to prove the effectiveness of a measure deviating from the technical rules issued by the ASTA. Only when challenged by the relevant public authorities must the employer explain why a deviating measure has been introduced. Faber argued that the burden of proof was thus shifted to the employees’ side. In effect, the Workplaces Decree had thereby diminished incentives for SMEs to introduce professional OSH measures.

Faber especially anticipated problems in establishments / companies without a works council, since the latter give every single employee a right to be heard on workplace measures. In small companies, employees would refrain from exercising this right for fear of straining their relationship with their employer. In this context it should be noted that the Workplaces Decree demands that, when introducing a deviating measure, the employer:

  • grant the same level of OSH protection to employees as provided by the technical rules.

  • carry out a risk assessment (Gefährdungsbeurteilung).

As Ahlers and Brussig (2004) note that the lack of formal structure in SMEs does not necessarily lead to worse OSH outcomes. Informal structures, rapid decision-making processes and closer relations between employees and management in SMEs can produce similarly good results. However, Ahlers and Brussig also point to certain short-comings of SMEs (see section 4). Similarly, as according to a qualitative survey by the statutory accident insurers, the practical function of H&S Committees (see section 2) differs by establishment size. In SME the advantage is seen in fostering OSH by improving communication between the main actors (HVBG 2007).

2. The micro-level settings: the role of H&S representatives

- From what level onwards / number of employees onwards, is it legally binding to establish an H&S Committee in the companies? What’s its role and function?

- From what level onwards / number of employees onwards are risk prevention representatives elected? Are they distinct representatives from H&S Committee and work councils?

- Does the H&S Committee deal with individual health related complaints? Does it have the right to initiate action?

- Do regional/territorial risk prevention representatives exist, covering several small SME’s?

- Is there special H&S training foreseen for OSH representatives/committees? Is it adequate in order to cope with both emerging risks and legislative and technological changes in SMEs?

- In order to carry out prevention policies, does a right exist for the H&S Committee to carry out surveys, call in outside independent experts? Who finances the costs of the operations / expertise? Does this right exist also in SMEs?

- Does the H&S Committee have the right to consult the Labour Inspectorate?

- Does regular reporting, annual reports exist which describe enterprises occupational diseases, assess the occupational risks at the workplace and present prevention policies? Are they submitted to the H&S Committee for discussion before publication?

- Is the H&S Committee, when providing a high standard of working conditions and of occupational health and safety seen as a positive competition factor? Can the image of the companies be regarded as important in the context for winning major contracts? Do companies refer to the activities of the H&S Committee in their Annual report of activities, to the existence of day-to-day bargaining and the management of working conditions by the H&S Committee? Do and how differ the approaches between micro/small, medium and large companies?

The Work Safety and Protection Act states that employees have the right and the duty to support their employer in developing and implementing OSH measures at the establishment level. The law obliges every employer to eliminate life- and health-threatening hazards, taking into account the latest scientific evidence on OSH measures, to offer special protection to employees exposed to particular dangers and issue appropriate instructions. Finally, the law stipulates that the risk assessments mentioned above be carried out in companies with more than 10 employees.

The Works Constitution Act accords works councils a voice in the selection of external and internal OSH experts. Works councils must be involved in inspection carried out by such experts. Additionally, works councils have the right to be informed by workers with the relevant knowledge and experience (sachkundige Arbeitnehmer) to fulfill their duties. Finally, the works council in establishments with more than 100 employees may set up working groups and delegate tasks to these working groups.

Further regulations introduced by the Occupational Safety Act (Arbeitssicherheitsgesetz, ASiG) include an obligation on every company to appoint a works doctor and qualified safety officer. Companies employing ten or more must document the results of their risk assessments, the measures taken and the results of follow-up assessments. Establishments with 20 or more employees are required to set up an H&S Committee (Arbeitsschutzausschuss). Under law, the H&S Committee has to consult on all OSH matters and accident prevention. As mentioned in section 1, a qualitative survey (HVBG 2007) carried out by the statutory accident insurers highlights the practical function of H&C Committees. In SME the advantage is seen in fostering OSH by improving communication between the main actors.

The H&S Committee usually consists of the employer (or a representative of the employer), two representatives of the works council, the works doctor, a qualified safety officer (Fachkraft für Arbeitssicherheit, in Germany a specific training is available leading to the title Safety Engineer or Master of Safety), a risk prevention representative (Sicherheitsbeauftragter, in EMIRE translated as ‘safety officer’, meaning an employee working voluntarily on safety matters). Whilst the number of works council representatives is fixed, the number of other members may vary. Meetings are to be held at least every three months. The task of the committee is to consult on all OSH matters and accident prevention.

Works doctors and qualified safety officers are typically employed by the statutory accident insurers to discuss OSH matters regularly in team meetings at small establishments without a works council. The Social Law Book also stipulates the election of a risk prevention representative in establishments with more than 20 employees. The statutory accident insurers are empowered to change the size of company at which risk prevention representatives must be elected depending on the accident rates in the sector. Finally, statutory accident insurers also provide training courses for OSH representatives. There is, however, no information available on whether this training is appropriate for SMEs.

Little representative information is available on the inner workings of H&S Committees. The works doctor, the qualified safety officer and the risk prevention representative are obliged by law to cooperate with the works council. Important OSH issues and related proposals made to the employer must also be reported to the works council. The works council has the right to consult the works doctor, qualified safety officer or the risk prevention representative. The regulations do not specify whether an H&S Committee has the right to carry out prevention policies independently. However, works councils enjoy the right to call in external experts for monitoring purposes. In this case the costs must be borne by the employer.

The sectoral statutory industrial accident insurance associations (Berufsgenossenschaften, BGs) have also developed an OSH model for small companies (less than 21 employees). They have a number of different options, depending on the BG involved:

  • An external qualified safety officer or an equivalent service provider and a works doctor are appointed. Requirements for companies with a maximum of ten employees include medical examinations by an expert at intervals of one, three or five years depending on the occupation of the employee. In this context, it should be noted that local employment offices offer a technical consultancy service (Technischer Beratungsdienst), thereby granting nationwide access to such experts even to small companies. Other regional safety-related service providers also exist (Überbetrieblicher sicherheitstechnischer Dienst).

  • For companies employing up to ten staff - and most BGs also offer this option for companies with up to 50 staff - the employer has amongst other things to offer the following measures to ensure the safety and health of employees: informative meetings and continuous training on OSH, identifying of counselling needs on the basis of risk assessments. Based on the risk assessment measures are to be taken at the establishment level.

  • The employer can employ an expert for work safety or train a suitable employee for the job. After their training such an employee can work in the company in both his original position and as a work safety expert.

Finally, it should be noted that cost arguments are among the foremost reasons for employers to become active in OSH, especially in establishments where the number of staff taking sick leave is high – as a study by Hübner and Gröben (2007) shows. Research at the University of Giessen carried out under the direction of Bräunig (2008) on behalf of the German Statutory Accident Insurance (Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung, DGUV) also shows that every euro invested in health and safety measures in the establishments surveyed promised a return on investment of € 1.60.

3. Social partners and the role of collective bargaining

Please summarize specific arrangements on H&S for SMEs and SME-dominated industries, and how territorial OSH representatives could intervene at workplace.

What is the role of Social partners in drawing guidelines and implementing H&S and work organization intervention aimed to prevent work accidents and WRDs? What is the role of labour inspectorates, social security institutions, OSH services and national agencies in promoting local-level experiences in SMEs? Please summarize, if there exist, the extent of the cooperation between these latter and social partners.

The social partners join forces in different ways to draw up guidelines and implement H&S-related standards at the workplace.

The growing importance of the quality of work and employment at EU level is reflected at the national level in Germany. In 2001 the Federal Government, the federal states, trade unions, employers’ and business associations, social security organisations, foundations and individual companies set up a joint alliance called the ‘New Quality of Work’ initiative (Initiative Neue Qualität der Arbeit, INQA). The aim of INQA is to promote the goal of combining employees’ expectations of healthy and satisfying working conditions with the need of enterprises to be competitive in an internationally integrated economy (DE0612039Q).

Under the umbrella of the INQA, the Federal Association of Guild Health Insurances (Bundesverband der Innungskrankenkassen, IKK) initiated an alliance for health in 2008. The alliance is especially aimed at the skilled crafts and SMEs in general. It unites a variety of relevant actors in the SME field: the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (Zentralverband des Deutschen Handwerks, ZDH), the German Retail Association (Hauptverband des Deutschen Einzelhandels, HDE), the German Metalworkers’ Union (Industriegewerkschaft Metall, IG Metall), the Trade Union for Building, Forestry, Agriculture and the Environment (Industriegewerkschaft Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt, IG Bau) and the Association of German Works Doctors (Verband der Deutschen Betriebs- und Werksärzte, VDBW).

The IKK has developed several tools to support companies with their OSH tasks. Information and advice is provided, e.g. on anti-stress strategies, team leadership, demographic change, etc. Another tool facilitates the exchange of experience between participants, i.e. employers, psychologists, ergonomists and management scientists. Further options include: an analysis of the number of staff taking sick leave and a comparison with other establishments in the sector or a quick-test check of the management’s leadership skills, the work organisation and the working atmosphere. In addition, OSH topics are included in the collective bargaining process. Examples of this are presented in section 5.

4. Figures, quantitative and qualitative studies.

Are there specific surveys which prove that standards of working conditions, health and safety within small enterprises as compared to larger ones are significant lagging behind?

Do these surveys also investigate the impact of training, information and consultation over working conditions also in SMEs?

When surveys lack, are there qualitative studies investigating the impact of involvement and training on working conditions and health in SMEs?

Develop on the findings / results. Please mention / enumerate / give links.

Ahlers and Brussig analysed the data of the Works Councils Survey (WSI-Betriebsrätebefragung) carried out by the Institute of Economic and Social Research (Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut in der Hans-Böckler-Stiftung, WSI). In 2004, 2,177 works council members and 1,396 staff councils participated in the survey. The survey covers establishments employing at least 20 employees from all sectors. Another analysis by Ahlers and Brussig published the following year concentrates on the spread and utilisation of risk assessments at the establishment level. Further (qualitative) insight is provided by a report by Hübner and Gröben analysing the consultancy needs of SMEs concerning OSH. The report, published in 2007, describes interviews with health insurances, public health and safety inspectorates, guilds, unions, the VDBW, other consultancy or service institutions, chambers of commerce and chambers of skilled crafts.

The participants in the WSI Works Council Survey 2004 reported that psychological stress at the work place had risen in the preceding five years. Indicators of psychological stress at the workplace showed scores of 95% for large establishments (with 1,000 or more employees) and 84% in establishments with up to 50 employees. All sectors, not only the tertiary sector, were affected.

This problem is compounded when complemented by other study results. Especially the implementation of requirements for the reduction of psychological stress factors received negative ratings by the interviewees: 47% of the participants stated that the requirements had been implemented only to a small or a very small degree. Only 5% reported a high level of implementation. Failure to take account of psychological factors proved to be a problem in establishments of all sizes. These results are supported by the findings of Hübner and Gröben, who similarly point out that in SMEs psychological stress was seldom acknowledged as a problem let alone countered with relevant measures.

Concerning physical dangers and health problems, the survey results differ with the size of establishment. For example, 14% of works council members at establishments with up to 50 employees recorded a decrease in physical problems at the workplace. This compares to a proportion of 30% for establishments with 1,000 or more employees.

Ahlers and Brussig state that, although it is compulsory, only 81% of smaller establishments with a maximum of 50 employees had a qualified safety officer. Implementation of OSH is much higher in establishments with a works council. An OSH or similar committee or a company agreement on OSH was also more often found in larger companies.

Whatever the formal structures, employee involvement in setting up OSH measures seems to be of vital importance. In the survey, 38.3% of the works council members named lack of employee interest in the topic as the main reason for insufficient implementation of the legal OSH requirements. This reason rated third amongst those given. The first two were:

  • the greater importance of other establishment needs (66.6%) – often related to internal restructuring processes and job cuts,

  • the high costs of OSH (63.4%).

Finally, Ahlers and Brussig point out the great differences in the use of risk assessments. Especially smaller companies had real difficulties in complying with the law. Continuing their work on the results of the 2004 WSI Works Council Survey, the researchers probed deeper into the topic in their 2005 analysis.

As shown in the table below, around half of all establishments surveyed participated in a risk assessment between 1996 and 2004. However, smaller establishments lagged behind in conducting such assessments. Only 29.4% of establishments with up to 50 employees had taken part in one. This compares to a share of 61.4% among the larger establishments with over 1,000 employees. Ahlers and Brussig assume that only larger establishments had the resources to employ a works doctor, for example, or set up a workplace health promotion programme at the establishment level.

Implementation of risk assessments between 1996 and 2004
Risk assessments are less often conducted in small establishments.
Establishment size Taking part in risk assessment (in %)
Up to 50 employees 29.4
51 to 100 employees 38.3
101 to 200 employee 47.3
201 to 500 employees 53.3
501 to 1,000 employees 55
Over 1,000 employees 61.4
Total 50.1

N = 2,177

Source: WSI Works Council Survey 2004 as quoted by Ahlers/ Brussig (2005).

The frequency of risk assessments also differs among the various industrial sectors. Whilst they are relatively common in sectors producing raw materials (63.2%) and the transport and communication sectors (59.9%), they are more seldom carried out in the construction industry (41.3%) – a sector characterised by a great number of SMEs. Risk assessments are conducted less often only in the sectors commerce (35.8%) and finance (32.9%). The study highlights the fact that members of works councils in the construction and commerce sectors often lacked knowledge of OSH and risk assessments. Members of works councils in the finance sector, on the other hand, often assumed that employees in their sector were not exposed to health and safety risks or a heavy work load.

The study additionally investigated the quality of risk assessments. The results show that only 23.3% of all establishments tested for psychological stress at the workplace. This means that not even every fourth establishment complies with the legal requirements stipulated by the ArbSchG. Moreover, only 43.6% of all establishments completed proper documentation as required by law. Finally, a mere 31.5% implemented measures derived from earlier risk assessments.

Brussig and Ahlers furthermore stress that the quality of risk assessments increases with the involvement of the works council in their implementation. Of further importance is the involvement of employees in risk assessments, with the participation of both works council and employees considerably enhancing their success . However, where the works council lacks knowledge or access to advice, the quality of risk assessments decreases significantly. Naturally, OSH issues are best developed in establishments where management takes a consistent interest. Attaching a high priority to OSH signals a well-developed personnel policy on the part of the management.

Nonetheless, the following results have also to be taken into account: The 2008 report by the German Network on Workplace Health Promotion (Deutsches Netzwerk für Betriebliche Gesundheitsförderung, DNBGF), for example, holds that literature and survey data show little evidence of working conditions being worse in small establishments than in large undertakings. The 2008 report by DNBGF holds that surveys on workplace-related accidents conducted by the statutory health insurers as well as data on fatal accidents collected by the labour inspectorate show that accidents occur more often in small establishments than in large enterprises. However, as these survey results are usually based on a weighted average of the number of accidents and the number of full-time employees they ignore the sector-related bias. The analysis concludes that differences between small and large undertakings are related not so much to their size as to their business activity, i.e. small establishments are more often found in sectors that are more prone to accidents (construction, roofing, meat-processing etc.).

5. Good practices for SMEs: company/territorial level

Are there well known examples for specific collective agreements in a given sector covering working conditions, H&S in particular in SME’s which go far beyond legislation? Are they exceptions or the rule? Please report at least one example at national level and at least two at territorial/company level.

Though collective agreements include clauses on OSH and related measures, these often only refer to the legal standards. On the other hand, in 2006 the social partners in the steel industry for the first time concluded a collective agreement on issues related to demographic change (DE0610019I). As Georg et al (2007) point out in their study, this agreement includes amongst other things clauses on:

  • shaping working conditions to make them appropriate for the age of the workers

  • promoting employees’ health in order to increase their employability

  • allowing for early or gradual retirement options

The agreement also laid down that an analysis of the staff’s age structure was to be carried out at regular intervals. The management and works council at each establishment were to develop future measures based on the results of the analysis. In this context, the agreement especially encouraged consideration of employees’ continuous training needs and the dangers and strains they were exposed to. To illustrate this point, certain specific measures were included in the agreement, among them:

  • Health promotion and the shaping of workplaces, work processes and organisation in accordance with the health and age of staff

  • Training of staff

  • Reduction of peak loads

  • Forming teams of mixed ages

  • Drawing up schedules appropriate to the health and age of staff

  • Motivating and training staff to lead healthy lives

Measures can be varied or supplemented at the establishment level according to the needs of the local staff. To finance all such measures a so-called ‘demographic fund’ can be set up at the establishment level. Social partners at the establishment level furthermore decide themselves how the fund is financed, e.g. contributions paid for by employers and employees alike. The agreement was adopted for the north-western German steel industry of North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony and Bremen covering some 85,000 employees. It should be noted that in 2008, the chemical industry followed with a similar agreement covering about 550,000 workers in the sector (DE0805029I). Whilst it is still too early to fully evaluate the impact of these agreements, their holistic approach is worthy of note.

Concerning establishment agreements, there is rarely any detailed data available. Data (bases) referring to establishment agreements in OSH often make their sources anonymous to inform on best-practices. Such is the case with the online database of REHADAT, the information system on vocational rehabilitation. It for example informs on agreements at the establishment level to support the integration of disabled persons at the workplace. Special provisions, concerning the appropriate shaping of workplaces for disabled people, rehabilitation measures, information rights of the employer etc. are included in their best-practice cases. Their examples cover agreements from the metal and electrical, chemical, engineering and other industries.


  • Ahlers, Elke; Brussig, Martin: Gefährdungsbeurteilungen in der betrieblichen Praxis (Risk assessments practiced at the establishment level). In: WSI-Mitteilungen No. 9, 2005. pp. 517-523.

  • Ahlers, Elke; Brussig, Martin: Gesundheitsbelastungen und Prävention am Arbeitsplatz – WSI-Betriebsrätebefragung 2004 (Health pressures and prevention at the workplace – WSI-Works’ Council Survey 2004). In: WSI-Mitteilungen No. 11, 2004. pp. 617-624.

  • Bräunig, Dieter, Qualität in der Prävention. Präventionsbilanz aus theoretischer und empirischer Sicht (Quality in prevention. Prevention assessment from a theoretical and empirical perspective). Gießen, 2008.

  • Dechmann, U. et al: Wirtschaftlich erfolgreich durch gute Arbeit (Economically successful by good work). In: Betriebliche Gesundheitsförderung im KMU-Netzwerk, ed. DNGBF, 2008.

  • Dörr, R.; Kahl-Mentschel, A., Lehder, G., Lins, S., Wienhold, L.: Umsetzung des Arbeitsstättenrechts in Klein- und Mittelbetrieben (Implementation of the workplace directives in SMEs). Dortmund: Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin (Federal Institute for Occupational Health and Safety) 2004. (A German summary of the report is available online).

  • Faber, Ulrich: Die neue Arbeitsstättenverordnung. Mehr Verschleierung als Vereinfachung des Rechts (The new Workplaces Decree. A greater obscuration instead of a simplification of the law). In: Soziale Sicherheit No. 7, 2004. pp. 239-243.

  • Georg, Arno et al: Die Eisen- und Stahlindustrie im demographischen Wandel (The iron and steel industry in times of demographic change). Research report for the Hans-Böckler-Foundation, 2007.

  • Hübner, Bernd; Gröben, Ferdinand (2007). Beratungsbedarf und Beratungsstrukturen von KMU zu betrieblicher Gesundheitsförderung aus Sicht überbetrieblicher Akteure. (Counselling needs of SMEs and existing offers concerning health promotion at the establishment level) ed. by Ferdinand Gröben and Ingra Freigang-Bauer. Analyse des Beratungsbedarfs betrieblicher Akteure und der verfügbaren Beratungsstrukturen im Themenbereich betriebliche Gesundheitsförderung. Eschborn und Karlsruhe. Project for the Hans-Böckler-Foundation, 2007.

Sandra Vogel, Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW Köln)

[1] Question 28a_1 “Have you undergone: Training paid for or provided by your employer, or by yourself if you are self-employed?”; Question 28a_2: “Training paid for or provided by your employer, or by yourself if you are self-employed - number of days”; question 28b_1. “Have you undergone: Training paid for by yourself?”; question 28b_2. “Training paid for by yourself - number of days”; question 28c: “Have you undergone: On-the-job training?”; question 28d. “Have you undergone: Other forms of on-site training and learning?”

[2] Question 30b: “Over the past 12 months have you been consulted about changes in the organisation of work and / or your working conditions?”; question 30d. “Over the past 12 months have you discussed work-related problems with your boss?”

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