Occupational safety

What is occupational safety and what does it really mean for my company?

As entrepreneurs, you come across the terms occupational safety and health again and again. What occupational safety and health really involves is seldom clear.

What is occupational safety?

To the point: occupational safety describes all measures to prevent accidents and injuries at work. Furthermore, the severity of the injury, if it does occur, should be kept as minor as possible.

Occupational health and safety includes health protection, or to be more precise, these two go hand in hand. There are work-related illnesses, such as occupational diseases, which must also be prevented.

The only difference is that accidents are sudden events, whereas illnesses usually occur over a period of time.

However, occupational safety and health also means seeing your previous efforts and good performance. To appreciate the measures that have already been successful and to build on them to become even better.

Why is occupational safety important?

Why is occupational safety important?

Let me ask you differently:
Have you ever had an accident?
Have you ever been injured?
Have you ever been in pain?
Did you like it?

If you answer “yes!” to the last question, you are not my target group.

What does it mean if you are in pain or if you cannot use parts of your body as you are used to because of the injury? For example, if your right hand is in a bandage?

Yes, exactly, you can’t use it the way you want, you are unhappy, you are not able to enjoy your life and do your work. I then also become insufferable for those around me.

It is the same with illnesses and creeping deterioration of your capabilities. Imagine you have constant back pain. Or you are hard of hearing and can hardly hear the conversations at the family table.

More generally, every accident, injury or illness means a loss of quality of life. And we don’t want that, neither you nor I.

And neither do our employees. Our employees rely on us to create working conditions for them in which they can stay healthy.

How is occupational health and safety regulated by law?

If you have been able to follow my line of thought up to this point, what is in the law is rather secondary, isn’t it? As an answer, I would choose one of the most beautiful words the German language has to offer: a clear and decisive “jein” – “yes and no”!

No

It is right and important to comply with the law. If I work in accordance with the law, I can assume that I am doing everything right. To actually implement what we consider socially sensible and acceptable?

Not getting into trouble when the authorities or the employers’ liability insurance come to inspect. To avoid fines and penalties?

Yes

If I have internalised the actual intention of occupational safety and health as my goal, I can actually be relatively indifferent to the laws. I can see the laws as a guide to what I have to do and how to do it in order to achieve my goal of a healthy employee?

Both are correct, both lead to the conclusion that the legal regulations are not irrelevant. I personally think that working in accordance with the law is the right way to go. Moreover, I see the regulations as a help and support in my work. More about this in one of the next articles.

However, the concrete regulations in occupational safety and health are visibly becoming less and less. More and more regulations require a risk assessment, based on which the employer determines what he does, how and why. This is a topic in itself.

What does occupational safety mean for my company?

Core Elementes of Health and Safety

First of all: don’t panic. In existing companies, the essentials are often already in place, even if they are not necessarily obvious. The main elements of occupational safety and health are:

  • Organisation of occupational safety and health
  • Safe working conditions
  • Employee qualification
  • Emergency preparedness

Occupational safety and health management

Integrating occupational health and safety into the structures and processes of your company. Establish responsibilities for managers, employees. Appoint safety representatives and first responders. Organise safety and occupational health care.

Take precautions for hazardous work areas and activities

Use safe machines and tools, implement technical protective measures, organise work processes, provide personal protective equipment.

Determine the appropriate measures for your company based on the risk assessment.

Qualification of employees

Train staff. Let your employees know what their tasks are, how to do them and what they are responsible for.

Emergency precautions

Be prepared if something does happen: First aid kits and fire extinguishers are ready to use and accessible. First responders are available.

There are other presentations that see a different number of core OSH elements. Often there are six or ten core elements. This is usually the structure against which the Berufsgenossenschaften and supervisory authorities conduct their inspections. We can go into this in more detail elsewhere. The point here is to get a simple and meaningful overview.

In summary

Occupational safety and health is a complex subject. It is not for nothing that there is a legal obligation for employers to seek advice and support on occupational health and safety and accident prevention.

As a business owner and employer, this overview will give you a basic understanding of the subject. You know the why and have a good overview of the most important aspects of occupational health and safety.

We will go into more depth on the individual topics here.

What questions do you have about this article?
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