Whatever work you do, the basic principle in the Netherlands is that everyone should be able to work safely and healthily. The vision behind this premise is that the work must not lead to physical or mental illness and not at all to death as a result. This principle is guaranteed in practice by the Working Conditions Act. This act is therefore aimed at promoting good working conditions and preventing illness and incapacity for work of employees. Are you an employer? In that case, the care for a healthy and safe working environment in accordance with the Working Conditions Act lies in principle with you. Within your company, not only must there be sufficient knowledge of healthy and safe working, but the guidelines of the Working Conditions Act must also be followed in order to prevent unnecessary danger to employees. Are you an employee? In that case, a few things are also expected of you in the context of a healthy and safe working environment.
Obligations of the employee
According to the Working Conditions Act, the employer is ultimately responsible for the working conditions together with his employee. As an employee, you must therefore contribute to the creation of a healthy and safe workplace. More specifically, as an employee, in view of the Working Conditions Act, you are obliged:
- to use the work equipment and hazardous substances correctly;
- not to change and / or remove the protections on work equipment;
- to use the personal protective equipment / aids made available by the employer correctly and to store them in the appropriate place;
- cooperate in organized information and instruction;
- to inform the employer of the observed risks to health and safety in the company;
- to assist the employer and other expert persons (such as prevention officer), if necessary, in the performance of their obligations.
In short, you must behave responsibly as an employee. You do this by using the working conditions in a safe manner and by performing your work in a safe manner so that you do not endanger yourself and others.
Obligations of the employer
In order to be able to provide a healthy and safe working environment, you as an employer must pursue a policy aimed at the best possible working conditions. The Working Conditions Act provides direction for this policy and working conditions that comply with it. For example, the working conditions policy must in any case consist of a risk inventory and evaluation (RI&E). As an employer, you must state in writing which risks the work entails for your employees, how these risks to health and safety are addressed within your company and which risks in the form of occupational accidents have already occurred. A prevention officer helps you to draw up a risk inventory and evaluation and gives advice on a good health and safety policy. Every company must appoint at least one such prevention officer. This must not be someone from outside the company. Do you employ 25 or fewer employees? Then you may act as a prevention officer yourself.
One of the risks that any company that employs employees can face is absenteeism. According to the Working Conditions Act, you as an employer must therefore have a sickness absence policy. How do you as an employer deal with absenteeism when it occurs within your company? You should record the answer to this question in a clear, adequate manner. However, in order to reduce the chance of such a risk being realized, it is advisable to have a periodic occupational health examination (PAGO) carried out within your company. During such an examination, the company doctor makes an inventory of whether you experience health problems due to work. Participation in such research is not mandatory for your employee, but it can be very useful and contribute to a healthy and vital circle of employees.
In addition, to prevent other unforeseen risks, you must appoint an in-house emergency response team (BHV). A company emergency response officer is trained to bring employees and customers to safety in an emergency and will therefore contribute to the safety of your company. You can determine yourself which and how many people you appoint as an emergency response officer. This also applies to the way in which company emergency response will take place. However, you must take the size of your company into account.
Monitoring and compliance
Despite the applicable laws and regulations, work accidents still occur every year in the Netherlands that could easily have been prevented by the employer or employee. The mere existence of the Working Conditions Act does not always appear to be sufficient to guarantee the principle that everyone must be able to work safely and healthily. That is why the Inspectorate SZW checks whether employers, but also whether employees adhere to the rules for healthy, safe and fair work. According to the Working Conditions Act, the Inspectorate can initiate an investigation when an accident has occurred or when a works council or trade union requests it. In addition, the Inspectorate has far-reaching powers and cooperation in this investigation is mandatory. If the Inspectorate finds a violation of the Working Conditions Act, the stopping of the work may result in a large fine or a crime / economic offense. To prevent such far-reaching measures, it is advisable for you as an employer, but also as an employee, to comply with all obligations of the Working Conditions Act.
Do you have any questions regarding this blog? Then contact Law & More. Our lawyers are experts in the field of employment law and are happy to provide you with advice.