October 29, 2020
Occupational safety in the wake of the coronavirus crises
The corona (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic has affected regular life as well as businesses life. Both the employed and those not part of the workforce are also affected. Employers have labor-law related as well as a general duty of care to safeguard the occupational health and safety of their employees. With the publication of SARS-Cov-2-occupational safety standards as well as the occupational safety guidance by the federal ministry of labor and social affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales (BMAS))
The following goals are being pursued:
- the safeguarding of the health of employees;
- the protection of the general public by breaking the chain of infection;
- the re-opening of the economy or the sustaining of economic activities.
Occupational safety standards
On 16 April 2020 the BMAS published the SARS-CoV-2 occupational safety standards with key points for the implementation of occupational safety during the corona pandemic. The SARS-CoV-2-occupational safety standards are a set of recommendations by the BMAS. There are no mandates for the implementation of all the measures. The SARS-CoV-2 occupational safety standards do not have the force of a regulation, accident prevention regulation or a law. However, regulatory agencies and professional organizations are urged to orient themselves to the standards in their supervision of and advise to companies.
Occupational safety rules
To ensure more commitment and to better specify the contents of the guidance, the BMAS has asked the federal agency for occupational safety and occupational medicine (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin (BAuA)) in cooperation with the states‘ occupational safety committees to develop the SARS-CoV-2-occupational safety guidance. The BMAS published the guidance on 20 August 2020. They emphasize the specification of the techniques, the organizational and personal safety of the SARS-CoV-2-occupational safety standards. Important adjustments were made to the guidance on the insistence of the industry and from the bayme vbm vbw, which reduced the burden on employers as well as increasing the practicability of the guidance. The BMAS has agreed to continue to revise the guidance and is open to addressing outstanding points of criticisms.
Occupational safety check regulations
On 29 July 2020 the German cabinet approved the draft measure to improve the implementation of occupational safety (Arbeitsschutzkontrollgesetz). The law will among other things, ban the use of sub-contractors and contract labor schemes in the meatpacking and processing industry.
Critics have called the draft bill an over reach. The need to improve occupational safety and health of employees does not require the banning of the use of sub-contractors and contract labor. The announcement of the law is expected by the end of 2020.