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As occupational safety and worker protection measures, means and methods are understood to protect workers against work-related safety and health hazards. The aim is to prevent accidents at work and protect the health of employees.

The term “ employee” is deliberately broadly defined in the Occupational Safety and Health Act. It includes all persons who are actually used by another (natural or legal) person within an organization . This includes in particular employees , but also civil servants , soldiers and judges ; Trainees , retraining , interns , volunteers ; Postulants and novices ; Pupils and students ; Employees in a workshop for disabled people ; persons similar to employees ; Helper as part of a volunteer year, e.g. B. FSJ or FÖJ ; Church officials including monks , nuns , deaconesses ; Activities in the context of occupational therapy ; Prisoners ; volunteer workers from z. B. Voluntary fire brigades or aid organizations . Domestic workers in private households and limited employees on seagoing ships and in companies that are subject to the Federal Mining Act are expressly excluded from the workforce within the meaning of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

In the German-speaking countries, partly different, but largely synonymous, terms are used for the term occupational safety , which is common in Germany . The most common synonyms are “safety and health at work” and “occupational health and safety”. In Austria , the term employee protection or employee protection is widespread, in Switzerland the terms work safety and “health protection”. The different terms depend in part on the different legal bases.

Historically, the term industrial hygiene was also used for occupational safety .

A distinction must be made between occupational safety (accident prevention) and job security , i.e. protection against loss of employment ( unemployment ).


Occupational safety deals, among other things, with the avoidance of occupational accidents , the reduction of their consequences (e.g. by eliminating dangers, additional protective measures, personal protective equipment (PPE), key indicator method , etc.), health protection (long-term = chronic as well as short-term = acute exposure; e.g. hazardous substances, noise , psychological stress , etc.) and personal protection (e.g. maternity leave , youth protection ) at work. In the company, it can be implemented in occupational safety management via an occupational safety management system (AMS).

Types of labor protection

When it comes to occupational safety, a distinction can be made between general and social occupational safety .

General occupational safety is intended to protect the life and health of employees, maintain their workforce and organize work in a humane manner. As soon as the employer issues safety regulations, whether by means of service instructions or agrees to a corresponding works agreement, these are fundamentally mandatory for the employees in the employment relationship. Elementary safety regulations, which are intended to protect employees from significant health hazards, must therefore be strictly observed. Violations can lead to consequences under labor law, up to and including termination of the employment relationship without notice.

Social occupational safety includes general things such as working hours , youth employment protection or maternity protection.



There are different occupational safety standards in the respective member states of the EU . In order to improve occupational safety and avoid competitive situations between the member states as a result of exploiting economic advantages of the location at the expense of occupational safety, the so-called framework directive for occupational safety has been passed by the Council of the EC (89/391 EEC of June 12, 1989). The framework guideline defines minimum requirements and covers the main risks in the area of ​​the working environment for safety and health protection as well as industrial hygiene. The European coordinating body is the Senior Labor Inspectors Committee .


In Germany , occupational safety is monitored in a dual system:

  1. by the supervisory authorities of the federal states (designations: regional councils (Hesse), structural and approval directors (Rhineland-Palatinate), districts and independent cities (Baden-Württemberg), trade supervisory office , state office for occupational safety and security technology, office for industrial safety , state office for industrial safety) . The Federal Accident Insurance Fund is responsible for the federal government and the federal authorities, including the indirect federal administration, which includes social insurance funds under federal supervision (Federal Employment Agency) on behalf of the central occupational safety commission at the Ministry of the Interior . In North Rhine-Westphalia, the technical and operational occupational safety and health are located in the responsible district governments.
  2. by the statutory accident insurance providers , in particular the professional associations and accident insurance funds .

The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) is also active as a federal authority in this branch of research.

Organs of occupational safety

SiFa and BA

Occupational safety in the company is organized and implemented by the company / employer and the responsible managers. They receive technical advice from the occupational safety specialist (SiFa) and the company doctor (BA). These are provided to the management as staff units and are not subject to instructions in their activities. They advise the company on occupational safety, make recommendations, carry out inspections, etc. However, since there is basically no authority to issue instructions, the occupational safety specialist (SiFa) and the company doctor only intervene in the event of imminent danger.

The Occupational Safety and Health Committee (ASA) meets at regular intervals (at least quarterly ). All occupational safety issues are discussed here, goals are set, milestones are checked, suggestions and criticism are made and much more. The ASA consists of representatives of the management, executives, the SiFa (which usually also takes on the moderation), the company doctor, members of the works council, the safety officer (Sibe) and, if necessary, employees affected by measures.

Internal and external occupational health and safety experts

Every employer with one or more employees is obliged to take care of occupational safety. Small companies have the option of taking on the tasks themselves in the so-called employer model - after the entrepreneur has been trained by the employers' liability insurance association. Otherwise external freelance workers can be hired. Large companies usually have their own departments with full-time company doctors and specialists for occupational safety.


Gravestone of a boy who died while ringing the bell from 1783

Technical and social work protection were introduced in Prussia in the 19th century because large sections of the bourgeoisie revolted, the labor movement grew stronger and also because the health of the recruits appeared to be poor due to child labor . In addition, King Friedrich Wilhelm III. in 1839 the progressive Prussian regulation .

The Prussian trade regulations, which later became the basis of the trade regulations of the German Reich, obliged employers to take measures to protect their workers. The term “worker protection” was born. The factory inspectors and increasingly also factory inspectors, who ensured that the laws were enforced in the factories, played a central role early on .

In 1884, under Bismarck, the Accident Insurance Act was passed, which also led to the establishment of the employers' liability insurance association . The Clinic for Occupational Diseases was established in Berlin in 1924 and expanded into a university institute in 1933.

In the 1920s, with a view to the successful American “safety first” movement, work on accident prevention began at the Hoesch iron and steel works in Dortmund . With organizational measures, etc. a. the appointment of two safety engineers, and the sensitization of the workers, etc. a. The number of accidents should be reduced through lectures, posters and advertising for accident prevention by means of labels on buildings.

Towards the end of the 19th century, employees and civil servants were also gradually protected from work-related hazards through legal regulations. The “labor protection” became the “labor protection”.

From the German Society for Industrial Hygiene , the German Society for Occupational Safety was established in 1934 , headed by the medical doctor Hermann Hebestreit (* 1904), who was appointed head of the Scientific Occupational Medicine Department in the DAF Office for Public Health in 1933.

In 1974 the law on company doctors , safety engineers and other specialists for occupational safety ( Occupational Safety Act ) came into force.

Legal anchoring

The employer's obligation to occupational safety and health protection results from the Reich Insurance Code and is now laid down in Book VII of the Social Code (SGB VII).

Laws, ordinances and guidelines

German laws are now almost exclusively influenced by the implementation of European directives (international harmonization). The following structure has currently developed:

Pre-filled syringe according to Trba250

Other laws that have an impact on occupational safety, but which are mainly addressed to the manufacturer instead of the employer, are:

Occupational health and safety and participation
Health and safety control
Extensive participation options

In contrast to previous legislation, the European regulations following the Occupational Safety and Health Act (ArbSchG) give companies a very wide margin of discretion in implementation in order to be able to do justice to the specific circumstances of a company. Since the Occupational Safety and Health Act is a framework without detailed requirements, it not only expands the employer's leeway and responsibility, but together with the Works Constitution Act offers works councils very extensive co-determination and structuring options . For example, in companies with works councils or staff councils, the requirements of the ArbSchG can be implemented with voluntary works agreements . Specifically, the law also requires a preventive approach for work planning , risk assessments , a definition of occupational safety measures based on these assessments , the implementation of these measures and effectiveness checks . Documentation is mandatory . This gives the employer the task of avoiding hazards caused by improper stress and of preventing work-related illnesses. For works councils there is an obligation to participate.


Instructions are an essential element of occupational safety . Their design and implementation is also determined. For example, Section 12 (1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires that employees be adequately and appropriately instructed during working hours. The manner and extent of instruction must be in an appropriate relationship to the existing risk situation and the qualifications of the insured person. The instruction is also an occupational health and safety measure based on a risk assessment.

Occupational health and safety management system audits

In companies with an occupational safety management system (AMS), the employee representatives also take part in the external audits of the certification companies. These are the certification audit, the recertification audits and the intermediate audits. Participation in the audits is important because the labor inspectorate can check companies with an AMS for company-initiated controls. The official control relies on the audits by companies whose client is the employer. In the case of inattentive audits and simplified controls by the trade supervisory authority, there is a risk of insufficient monitoring of the quality of occupational safety.

In the ISO 45001 standard for AMS there is a paragraph on consultation and participation of employees . Works councils in certified companies should be aware of these.

Problems of insufficient health and safety control

According to research by the ARD magazine Plusminus , the number of occupational safety inspections in Germany fell by two thirds between 1996 and 2017, from around 600,000 to 200,000 inspections per year. This is due to massive job cuts in the health and safety authorities. At the same time, the number of establishments and regulations is increasing. As a result, there are now so few occupational safety inspectors that a company in Germany would statistically have to expect to be inspected only every 30 years. For example, the Stuttgart Trade Inspectorate can only inspect 30 of the approximately 21,000 construction sites per year. Due to this disproportion, Germany, along with Bulgaria and Hungary, brings up the rear when it comes to occupational health and safety at European level .

In Germany, 420 people died in accidents at work in 2018.


In Austria, occupational health and safety is understood as the sum of all precautions and activities that aim to protect the life and health of people in their professional activities. This area is more precisely referred to as employee protection.

Employee protection in Austria (as in many other European countries) is essentially determined by the EU occupational safety directives. Most of the national employee protection laws and regulations, such as the Employee Protection Act (ASchG) or the Workplace Ordinance, are based on these guidelines .

An overview of the provisions of the ASchG is given in the brochure "Safety and health protection at work". A full-text database of all Austrian employee protection regulations and the relevant ancillary provisions including explanatory notes has been published on CD-ROM since 1997 and is updated regularly.

The Labor Inspectorate is the most important legally mandated authority to combat deficits in safety and health protection at work in Austria. A nationwide homogeneous enforcement practice ensures the claims for equal rights and fair competition in the world of work. In this way, it contributes to the avoidance of accidents and work-related health hazards, to the further development of occupational safety and health protection, and to the social acceptance of employee protection. The Labor Inspectorate has its own website on the Internet. The range of topics ranges from general protective provisions at work, the design of workplaces and the use of work equipment to working time regulations and protection for certain groups of people in the world of work.


In 1883, a relatively comprehensive surveillance authority was set up in Austria-Hungary with the creation of the trade inspection . A change to the trade regulations in 1885 stipulated some worker protection regulations. For example, the maximum working time for factory workers (from the age of 14) was fixed at 11 hours. Child labor up to the age of 14 was banned, as was night work for women and young people (up to 16). However, the prohibitions only applied in the area of ​​the trade regulations, were often not complied with and there were numerous exceptions.


In Switzerland , the regulation of occupational safety according to the Accident Insurance Act (UVG) is taken over by the Swiss Accident Insurance Agency (SUVA) and the Federal Coordination Commission for Occupational Safety (EKAS).

The health of Switzerland is in the Labor Code regulated and has to protect the goal, workers and workers from health hazards. The law is applicable to all public and private companies, in particular to industrial, commercial and commercial companies.

In particular, the labor law specifies working hours (maximum weekly working hours, overtime , rest periods and breaks), night work, Sunday work, shift work and uninterrupted operation, special protection for young people, pregnant women and mothers, industrial companies and health protection in general.

United Kingdom

In the UK , health and safety regulations are governed by the Health and Safety Executive .

See also


  • Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs : Overview of labor law / labor protection law , January 2008, ISBN 978-3-8214-7281-2 (book with CD)
  • Rolf Satzer, Max Geray: Stress - Psyche - Health, the START procedure for risk assessment of workloads , Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-7663-3683-5
  • Occupational safety from A – Z. Haufe practical guide. 5th edition 2009
  • DGUV yearbook 2013/2014, German Statutory Accident Insurance eV
  • Stefan Poser: Social museums, technology and society. On the social significance of occupational safety and security technology using the example of contemporary museums around 1900 . In: Technikgeschichte, Vol. 67 (2000), H. 3, pp. 205-224.

Web links

Commons : Occupational Safety  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Wolfhard Kohte , commentary on § 2 ArbSchG, in: Norbert Kollmer, Thomas Klindt, Arbeitsschutzgesetz. Comment. Second edition. Munich: Beck 2011, with reference to a judgment of the Higher Administrative Court of Münster (NJW 1987, 1443).
  2. The list mostly follows the keywords in bold in Kohte, commentary on § 2 ArbSchG, paragraphs 47 to 114.
  3. http://de.academic.ru/dic.nsf/meyers/50455/Gewerbehygiene
  4. http://de.academic.ru/dic.nsf/technik/9483/Gewerbehygiene
  5. ↑ Council Directive 89/391 / EEC of June 12, 1989 on the implementation of measures to improve the safety and health of workers at work . In: European Union (Ed.): EUR-Lex . June 12, 1989 ( PDF; 926 kB (PDF) [accessed on May 28, 2013]).
  6. Christina von Hodenberg: Revolt of the weavers. The 1844 revolt and its rise to myth. Bonn 1997.
  7. On “worker protection” in the 19th century cf. Collection of sources on the history of German social policy from 1867 to 1914 , Department I: From the time when the Reich was founded to the Imperial Social Message (1867–1881), Volume 3: Workers' protection , edited by Wolfgang Ayaß , Stuttgart / Jena / New York 1996; Collection of sources on the history of German social policy from 1867 to 1914, Section II: From the Imperial Social Message to the February decrees of Wilhelm II (1881–1890), Volume 3: Workers' protection , edited by Wolfgang Ayaß, Darmstadt 1998; Collection of sources on the history of German social policy from 1867 to 1914, III. Department: Expansion and differentiation of social policy since the beginning of the New Course (1890–1904), Volume 3, worker protection , edited by Wolfgang Ayaß, Darmstadt 2005.
  8. H. Bitter: Accident prevention at the iron and steel works Hoesch , in: Stahl und Eisen , Vol. 47, Issue 14 (1927), pp. 569-576.
  9. Ulrich Knödler: From reform to overexploitation. Occupational medicine, performance medicine, control medicine. In: Norbert Frei (Hrsg.): Medicine and health policy in the Nazi era. R. Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 1991 (= writings of the quarterly books for contemporary history. Special issue), ISBN 3-486-64534-X , p. 113–136, here: p. 115 f.
  10. § 87 Abs. 1 Nr. 7 BetrVG in connection with ArbSchG
    Jens Gäbert, Brigitte Maschmann-Schulz: Mitbestigung im Gesundheitsschutz , 2008, ISBN 978-3-7663-3498-5
    Michael Kittner, Ralf Pieper: Arbeitsschutzgesetz , 2007, ISBN 978 -3-7663-3201-1
    Bernd-Jürgen Vorath, Ralf Pieper: Handbook of Occupational Safety and Health , Chapter 2.7.4 Codetermination , 2005, ISBN 978-3-7663-3558-6
  11. BAG, June 8, 2004: decisions AZ 1 ABR 4/03 and AZ 1 ABR 13/03
  12. BAG, January 11, 2011, AZ 1 ABR 104/09
  13. State Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (Ed.): Principles of official system control . LV 54, 2011, ISBN 978-3-936415-65-0 ( PDF; 324 kB [accessed December 8, 2015] Appendix, Section 5).
  14. ^ Occupational health and safety: Saving at the expense of safety , on daserste.de, from September 19, 2018.
  15. https://www.dguv.de/de/zahlen-ffekten/au-wu-geschehen/index.jsp , work and commuting accidents of the German statutory accident insurance, accessed on February 25, 2020.
  16. Brochure "Safety and Health Protection at Work (The Employee Protection Act)" ( Memento from January 15, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF file; 122 kB)
  17. CD-ROM "Employee Protection Expert"
  18. ^ Labor Inspectorate (Austria): Historical overview of the development of the Austrian Labor Inspectorate ( Memento from September 30, 2007 in the Internet Archive )