Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by DGUV

Which legal provisions exist in the field of occupational health and safety?

  SGB VII (Social Code VII), Occupational Safety Act, Occupational Health and Safety Act

  In the area of social employment protection:

  Working Time Act

  Maternity Protection Act

  Young Workers Protection Act

  Temporary Employment Act

  In the area of work equipment standards:

  Equipment and Product Safety Act

  In the area of chemicals on the market:

  Chemicals Act

What role does the DGUV (German Statutory Accident Insurance Association) play in the German system?

  The DGUV is the leading association of employers' liability insurance associations and public sector accident insurers. The association identifies the common interests of its members and promotes their work with the aim of benefiting insured parties and companies. The DGUV represents the field of statutory accident insurance in the political arena at Land and federal level, in European and other national and international institutions, as well as in discussions with social partners.

  The DGUV is also responsible for representing the whole spectrum of statutory accident insurers during the current development of the Common German Occupational Health and Safety Strategy (GDA). In this capacity, the DGUV is an equal partner in the GDA alongside the Federal Government and the La­nder.

Information on Germany's "No-Fault" compensation system: How does it work? What are its advantages?

  Relieving of liability, compensation is ensured, no legal disputes . . .

  The system whereby statutory accident insurance enters in place of private liability is predominantly governed by Section 104 and following sections of the Social Code VII. The limitation of the company's liability for damages, as well as that of other employees, functions in material terms like liability insurance, and is a fundamental component of the statutory accident insurance system as a whole. Rather than making civil claims against their own employer, accident victims submit their claim to accident insurers. By paying contributions, companies earn the right to be held liable for insurance claims only in the narrow circumstances specified in Section 104 of the Social Code VII—in most cases, therefore, only where the accident was intentional. The employer's obligation to pay contributions is thus linked to an obligation on the part of the accident insurer to protect the employer in the event of claims by third parties. This system is supported by the following arguments:

  Financing argument: if the employer alone provides the contributions for statutory accident insurance, it is right and proper that he should be relieved of liability—subject to the conditions stipulated in Section 104 and onwards of the Social Code VII. Furthermore, the risk arising from insurance claims is calculable for the employer (c.f. insolvencies in America as a result of insurance claims).

  Harmony argument: in the interest of company harmony, legal disputes between employers and employees should be avoided.

  Advantages for insured parties: fixed lump-sum claims can be made to accident insurers even without proof of blame or damages; no complications as a result of contributory negligence; the fact that action may have been taken against a prohibition does not rule out acceptance of a claim.

Implementation/monitoring of provisions: How does this happen? Who is responsible?

  Technical supervisory service of the insurers' liability insurance associations, health and safety inspections carried out by the La­nder (trade supervision).

  Under Section 17 of the German Social Code VII, accident insurers are to monitor company implementation of measures intended to prevent accidents at work, occupational illnesses, and work-related health risks, and to ensure effective first aid. They must also advise employers and insured parties. Accident insurers may stipulate in each individual case the measures which the employer or the insured parties must take. These sovereign tasks are to be carried out by supervisory officers based within the accident insurance companies in line with Section 18 of the Social Code VII. Subject to conditions laid down in the Code, the supervisory officers have the right to access companies and may issue orders and fines.

Cooperation with companies. Is it good? Where may difficulties/resistance arise?

  Cooperation between the supervisory officers and the companies is for the most part good. The supervisory officers approach the companies as consultants offering advice on health and safety issues. Isolated problem cases are most likely to arise in small or medium-sized enterprises where the employer shows no willingness to afford health and safety appropriate consideration in the organisation of the company. In these cases, the supervisory officer may be required to impose orders.

Are companies legally obliged to observe occupational health and safety provisions?

  Yes. Employers are obliged to observe not only health and safety provisions issued by the state, such as acts and ordinances, but also accident prevention regulations issued by statutory accident insurance companies.

What are the advantages of legally binding provisions as opposed to voluntary guidelines such as those in the UK?

  Legal obligations create legal certainty and make it easier for employers—particularly small and medium sized operators—to fulfil the health and safety requirements incumbent on them. The companies know that, by fulfilling the regulations, they remain "on the safe side".

Where necessary, do binding standards give health and safety personnel within the company (security personnel, works doctor, safety inspector) better scope for arguing the case for health and safety measures with their employer?

  The benefits of legally binding standards for ensuring implementation of health and safety measures also extend to health and safety figures outside the company, such as the supervisory officers of the accident insurance companies or trade supervisory officers.

How has the introduction of legal obligation affected (the number of) accidents at work?

  The number of notifiable accidents at work per 1,000 full jobs or the number of notifiable accidents at work for every 1 million working hours has been falling for many years (with the exception of 2006). The fact that employers are legally bound to observe health and safety provisions is undoubtedly one reason for this positive development.

Has this also led, for example, to health and safety becoming an issue at management level?

  The system of self-administration in German statutory accident insurance means that both employers and insured parties have a strong sense of identification with the health and safety regime in their company. Health and safety takes place within the workplace, and the concerned parties, ie the employer and the insured employees, manage the system independently.

February 2008

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Prepared 21 April 2008