The state failure in occupational safety

On September 23, 2018, one could read here in the article der Arbeitsschutz zwischen Staatsverschlag und “Vision Zero”: “these are harsh accusations: Germany is one of the laggards in Europe when it comes to occupational health and safety. The Council of Europe’s committee of experts, which monitors compliance with social Standards in all countries, has found this: “in 2014, the committee of experts found for the first time that Germany no longer meets the prescribed Standard in Occupational Safety and health. And we have joined Bulgaria and Hungary. And this, however, has been little noticed in Germany.“So … Wolfhard Kohrte from the University of Halle-Wittenberg. He sees this as a state failure.”

And at that time it was reported: “in all federal states – which are responsible for Occupational Health and safety – there were massive job cuts at the Occupational Health and safety authorities. As a result, fewer company inspections take place from year to year. Since the mid-1990s, the number has decreased by two thirds, although there are more and more establishments and regulations.”

One could hope that in the meantime things have developed for the better in this area, which is so important for workers. But they do not, if you look at the answer of the federal government to a question in the Bundestag.

“The number of Occupational Health and safety inspections in German companies has fallen further. In 2018, the competent state authorities made 167,000 company visits-after 183,000 inspections in 2017. this is based on a response from the federal government to a small request from the left group,” says this report: the number of Occupational Health and safety inspections in companies continues to decline. “On average, the distance to a new control of an operation was extended from 22.5 years previously to 25 years.“Until then, you could raise a child and release it from the hotel Mama. However, as with so many other things, you should think very carefully about which state you want to raise the child in: “according to the most recent data for 2018, the clock is shortest in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania with an average of 5.5 years. The distance to the next inspection visit in Saarland is longest with an average of 47 years.“In Saarland, one can only hope that it is not a nest stool.

And it must be noted that this has steadily worsened in recent years:


These are more than frightening figures. A detailed overview of the current values can be found in this answer of the federal government to a request of the parliamentary group of the left.

But what is this occupational health and safety?

“Historically, Occupational Health and safety in Germany rests on two pillars: the state system of Occupational Health and safety … and the system of accident insurance institutions. The latter also monitor compliance with occupational health and safety and have a norm-setting effect through accident prevention regulations and the corresponding technical guidelines and rules … as an insurer, you have an original interest in reducing costs for rehabilitation measures and compensation. Both pillars developed in the 19th century. In the 21st century, the company has focused on responding to the health and accident risks of the emerging large-scale industry. Occupational Health and safety falls within the competence of the Federal Ministry of labour, but belongs to the federally organized policy fields, i.e. the supervisory and advisory tasks of the supervision of differently institutionalized trade supervisory offices or offices for Occupational Safety and health are carried out at the state level … the work of the federal states is coordinated by the state committee for Occupational Safety and health and safety technology (LASI), which prepares, among other things, the deliberations of the conference of labour and social ministers (Asmk). As a state authority, the Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate May at any time visit unannounced establishments, check operating facilities, work equipment, work processes and protective equipment and carry out measurements. It can react to occupational health and safety defects and legal violations with graduated measures, which range up to administrative offenses proceedings or the submission to the public prosecutor’s office … There are also control rights for ordered corrective actions.

In 1996, the Arbeitsschutzgesetz (ArbSchG) established a system of legislation for Occupational Safety and health in Germany. The law is concretized by regulations that regulate various aspects of Occupational Health and safety. In the joint German Occupational Health and safety strategy (GDA), the applicable laws are made manageable in the form of guidelines for users in the companies. Compliance with these rules must be ensured by an effective supervisory system – but there is a serious lack of compliance: there have been indications of maladministration in occupational health and safety controls in Germany for years: fewer and fewer personnel carry out Occupational Health and safety checks in fewer and fewer companies.

This is also not surprising when you look at the personnel for the state Occupational Safety and health in the federal states – and this compares with the employees who are to be protected by the work:


By the way: in 2007 there were 3,340 supervisory officials in the federal states, according to the Bundestag-Drucksache 19/7218 of 22.01.2020, Table 1, p. 5.and as we know, one should not rely only on the naked figures, even if they are sad enough on their own. “The federal government observes that the personnel of the supervisory authorities of the Länder are increasingly carrying out tasks in addition to occupational health and safety or outside of Occupational Health and safety, e.g. Environmental Protection, Immission Control, Market Surveillance.“Mind you, that’s the federal government’s answer.

And not only that. Last year, the Federal Government highlighted the following: “in the last 20 years, there has been a considerable Expansion in the tasks of Occupational Health and safety supervision.“In other words, with declining numbers in the supervisory area and at the same time a dilution of the core activities of the staff.

Against this background, what was already accounted for in 2018 remains: “… that the enormous fragmentation of the Occupational Safety and health landscape and the federal confusion contribute to the fact that we have significant structural problems to the detriment of the workers and that we have to learn once again how important a “big solution” would be, that is, to create and have a powerful labour authority that would have to deal with all sub-areas sensibly and with appropriate organisational knowledge. That would have been a task for a grand coalition, but it is busy with other things.”