Employers are responsible for ensuring that their employees' workplace is safe and that their health is protected. Employers must install and maintain the working places, workstations, machinery, facilities, etc. so that their employees are protected against risks to their lives or health and must organize the entire operation to ensure this is achieved.
Employers are placed under obligation to ensure their employees safety at the workplace and the prevention of accidents by:
- The statutory regulations on safety at the workplace;
- The Arbeitsschutzgesetz (German Act on Employee Protection);
- The health and safety regulations of authorities responsible for workmen's compensation.
In Berlin, companies registering their trade or business with the authorities are automatically listed with the Berufsgenossenschaft (trade association) responsible for their industry. They must report to their responsible trade association within one week's time to take out workmen's compensation insurance for their free-lance staff and their employees.
The Landesamt für Arbeitsschutz, Gesundheitsschutz und technische Sicherheit (LaGetSi, state authority for safety at the workplace, health protection and technical security) or the responsible trade association must be contacted to resolve any issues arising prior to the business activity being commenced, such as questions involving the suitability of the premises as a work site.
Important laws governing the safety and health of employees at the workplace
Arbeitsschutzgesetz (ArbSchG, German Act on Employee Protection):
provides for the employers fundamental obligations, such as conducting risk evaluations.
Arbeitsstättenverordnung (ArbStättV, Workplace Ordinance):
establishes the minimum requirements for a healthy and safe work environment. The ordinance contains provisions on how workspaces, storage areas and stores must be designed and furnished. This also relates to escape and exit routes, break rooms and sanitary facilities.
Arbeitssicherheitsgesetz (ASiG, German Occupational Safety Act):
provides for the appointment of company physicians and specialists for accident prevention and the improvement of safety at the workplace and designs their tasks. The German Occupational Safety Act is put into more specific terms by the accident prevention regulations published by the trade associations.
Betriebssicherheitsverordnung (BetrSichV, Industrial Safety Ordinance):
provides for the safe handling of equipment and tools, machines, instruments and facilities.
Gefahrstoffverordnung (GefStoffV, Ordinance on Hazardous Substances):
establishes comprehensive rules for introducing and trading chemicals on the market.
Biostoffverordnung (BioStoffV, Biological Substances Ordinance):
provides for the protection, safety and health of employees working with biological substances and includes a categorization of such substances into risk groups.
Arbeitszeitgesetz (ArbZG, German Working Hours Act):
establishes the framework for how the hours of work are to be organized. The law stipulates the maximum number of working hours per day and provides for minimum break times during work as well as minimum rest periods after work. Moreover, it contains provisions as to night-time and shift work as well as work on Sundays and legal holidays.
Maternity Protection Act (“Mutterschutzgesetz”):
Regulates the employment rights of expectent mothers by enforcing employment restrictions and protecting against unfair dismissal.
Youth Worker Protection Act (“Jugendarbeitsschutzgesetz”):
Protects youth workers against being overworked.
Code of Social Law IX (“SGB IX”):
Represents the interests of disabled individuals and protects them against unfair dismissal.