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Every employer is obliged to set up an internal service for prevention and protection at work in his company or institution, including at least one prevention advisor. If the employer employs less than 20 workers, he may assume this function himself.
The internal service has the general task of assisting the employer, the members of the hierarchical line and the workers of the company in the implementation of the regulations relating to the well-being of the workers but also in the realisation of the measures and activities of prevention.
General preventive tasks of the internal service
Examples of the general tasks of the internal service:
- participating in the identification of hazards and giving advice on the risk assessment;
- participating in the examination of the causes of occupational accidents;
- giving advice on the various topics that concern the Code on well-being at work and on the drafting of instructions and the information, reception and training of workers;
- participating in the development of internal emergency procedures and in the organisation of first aid.
In order to accomplish these tasks, the internal service performs certain tasks such as:
- examining workplaces and workstations;
- examining occupational accidents and incidents;
- carrying out or commissioning analyses and inspections;
- taking note of manufacturing processes, work methods, work procedures and work organisation components and examining them in order to propose measures to reduce risks
- keeping up to date the documentation relating to the legislation, the documents imposed by this legislation, the inventory of certain equipment, the list of dangerous products used in the company;
- drawing up occupational accident index cards;
- keeping up to date the communications given to the public authorities.
In addition to these general tasks, there are specific tasks for the prevention of particular risks (e.g.: health surveillance or prevention of psychosocial risks at work).
Internal or external service?
As stated in the European framework directive on safety and health, every employer must appoint one or more workers to carry out activities related to the protection and prevention of occupational risks in the company and/or establishment. If the employer does not have sufficient possibilities to organise these protection and prevention activities in his company himself, he must call on experts (persons or services) from outside the company and/or establishment. In accordance with these rules, the Belgian legislation on well-being provides that every employer must have an internal service for prevention and protection at work comprising at least one prevention advisor, except when the number of workers is less than 20, in which case the employer may assume the function of prevention advisor himself. Only if the internal service is not able to perform all the tasks entrusted to it by the legislation on well-being, the employer must also call on an external service for prevention and protection at work.
In view of the scope of the Act on Well-being, the legal tasks of the prevention service do not only concern the safety and health of workers, but also psychosocial aspects of the working environment (moral harassment, burn-out, etc.), as well as workplace ergonomics and occupational hygiene. For health surveillance and the prevention of psychosocial risks at work in particular, the legislation requires the appointment of specialised prevention advisors: the prevention advisor/occupational physician and the prevention advisor for psychosocial aspects. Consequently, the employer must either be able to call on his own workers with the necessary knowledge and skills, in which case the internal prevention service can itself perform all the tasks entrusted to it by the legislation on well-being, so that there is no need to call on an external prevention service. Or, if he does not have the necessary personnel himself (usually because this is impossible or too expensive for small and medium-sized enterprises), he must call on an external service specifically set up and authorised for this task. There are no exceptions for certain activities or sectors in this respect.
Under the legislation that applies in the case of posting of workers, the above principles must be applied by all employers who employ workers in Belgium. This means that even an employer established abroad who posts workers to Belgium must have the necessary prevention advisor(s) to help him comply with Belgian social legislation within the required timeframe and conditions. If this is not the case (e.g. because the prevention advisor of the foreign employer does not have the necessary training, does not have the required medical or psychological knowledge, is never present in Belgium, or is insufficiently familiar with the legislation in Belgium), the foreign employer must in principle call on an external service to assist him: he can call on an external service to which he is affiliated in his country of establishment, or he can turn to an external service in Belgium. If a foreign external service is used, it must of course be capable of correctly applying Belgian legislation on worker well-being. Ultimately, the responsibility for the correct fulfilment of the obligations arising from the Belgian legislation on the well-being of workers employed in Belgium lies with the employer, regardless of which external service assists him in this respect.
The employer shall mention in an easily accessible place for the posted workers the names and contact details of:
- the prevention advisor of the internal service (non-specialised);
- the prevention advisor/occupational physician;
- the prevention advisor for psychosocial aspects
and, if necessary, the name of the external service for prevention and protection at work.
This can be done by means of posters, via the intranet, etc.
Tasks of the prevention service
Some basic tasks must always be carried out by the internal service, the idea being that they require data or knowledge that lies at the heart of the company.
These tasks depend on the group to which the employer belongs.
Employers are divided into 4 groups (A, B, C or D) according to the size of the company and the risks present.
Prevention advisor training
The (non-specialised) prevention advisor must have specific competences depending on the group to which the company belongs.
More information on this website:
- on the Internal service for prevention and protection at work, under the theme The well-being of workers
- on the External service for prevention and protection at work, under the theme The well-being of workers
- on the Prevention advisor training (non-specialised):
- in French: Formation et recyclage des conseillers en prévention (legal texts in the "Réglementation" tab)
- in Dutch: Vorming en bijscholing van de preventieadviseur (legal texts in the "Regelgeving" tab)
- List of authorised external services in Belgium: