Accidents at work
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In Belgium, the Federal Public Service (FPS) for Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue is the competent national authority for health and safety at work. It is responsible for preparing, promoting and implementing the policy for well-being at work.
The Labour Inspectorate – Directorate General for Well-Being at Work of the FPS Employment oversees compliance with that policy by playing an advisory, preventive and repressive role.
The Federal Agency for Occupational Risks (Fedris) is the centre of expertise for occupational risks, particularly those related to accidents at work and occupational diseases.
Fedris has a supervisory role towards employers and insurance companies for accidents at work. In some cases, it is also responsible for the compensation of victims. Fedris is competent to examine claims for compensation for occupational diseases when victims are emplyed in the private sector or local and provincial institutions, and to compensate them directly or indirectly.
Employees from the following sectors can contact Fedris:
- accidents at work: the private sector and, to a lesser extent, the public sector
- occupational diseases: the private sector and local and provincial public authorities
If you are self-employed, you can contact the National Institute for the Social Security of the Self-employed (NISSE).
What should you do if an occupational risk is established?
All employers are obliged to have a policy to promote the well-being of their employees at work. The policy must be based on risk analysis. Employees who identify a risk must report it to their employer.
A complaint can then be submitted to the competent regional inspectorate for well-being at work. You can find the contact details, opening hours and the geographical area covered by each of these regional inspectorates on the FPS for Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue website (in French and Dutch).
An employer can seek advice from the Federal Agency for Occupational Risks (Fedris) about exposure to occupational diseases at work. This advice is free of charge.
When and how to report work-related accidents, injuries, near-misses or diseases
Accidents at work
All Belgian employers are obliged to insure their paid employees for the risk of accidents at work by subscribing to a policy with an insurance company.
Employees must report every accident they have at work, or on the way to or from work, to their employer. The employer is obliged to report the accident to its insurance company within eight days.
The insurance company will then decide whether to recognise the accident as an accident at work.
If it refuses to do so, Fedris can be asked to investigate its decision.
In principle, all private-sector employers are automatically insured for occupational diseases. Public authorities generally insure their employees for occupational diseases themselves.
Prevention advisors/occupational physicians are legally required to inform Fedris and the FPS Employment if they find that an employee has a disease which they suspect is work-related. Fedris will then inform the employee that they can make a claim for compensation. The claim can be made even if the prevention advisor/occupational physician has not previously reported the disease.
Private-sector employees can claim compensation from Fedris by completing Form 501N available in French and Dutch on the Fedris website and asking their doctor to complete Form 503N available in French and Dutch on the Fedris website. Once Fedris has received both forms and any supporting medical documents, it can begin an investigation.
Serious or very serious accidents at work
The term ‘serious accident at work’ is defined as an accident in the workplace that is serious enough to require a specific, in-depth investigation to identify the preventive measures to be taken to avoid a repeat occurrence.
In practice, the procedure to be followed for serious accidents at work involves three or four steps:
- the serious accident is investigated immediately by the competent preventive body or bodies;
- if the accident is ‘very’ serious (in other words fatal, or causes permanent incapacity), it is reported immediately to the competent officials;
- protective measures are taken to avoid an immediate repetition;
- a detailed accident report is submitted to the Labour Inspectorate for Well-Being at Work within ten days of the accident.
All other accidents resulting in incapacity lasting for four days or more must be analysed and recorded in an accident report.
A telephone hotline for out-of-hours reporting of very serious accidents at work to the official responsible for monitoring them was set up on 1 October 2020; this can be used for reporting outside office hours on working days, on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, on bridging days and during the general closure between Christmas and New Year.
The employer of a person who has had a very serious accident at work must report it immediately to the official responsible for monitoring such accidents by suitable technological means; the report must give the name and address of the employer, the name of the victim, the date and place of the accident, the probable consequences and a brief description of the circumstances.
Two general contact numbers have been set up to report very serious accidents to the duty inspector:
- Telephone number for reporting in Dutch: +32 2 235 53 00
- Telephone number for reporting in French: +32 2 235 55 44
If the occupational accident is serious enough, or if required by the judicial authorities, the inspector may need to visit the scene of the accident to start the investigation and to determine whether suitable measures have been taken by the competent preventive service to guarantee the safety and health of employees pending the results of the investigation.
These provisions do not apply to very serious accidents on the premises of ‘Seveso’ companies. In this case the Directorate for the Prevention of Serious Accidents must be notified. Contact details can be found on our website, in the section about Chemical Risk Control in French and Dutch.
Certain occupational accidents must also be reported to other authorities:
- The Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (in French and Dutch) accidents involving ionising radiation;
- The FPS Economy, Central Inquiry Desk (in French and Dutch) for very serious incidents or accidents involving lifts;
- The local police and the public prosecutor (in French and Dutch) for accidents involving explosives;
- The FPS Economy, DG for Energy, Infrastructure and Inspections (in French and Dutch) for electrical accidents.
- In de eerste plaats bij de preventieadviseur van de interne en/of de externe dienst voor preventie en bescherming.
- In de tweede plaats bij de bevoegde regionale directie van het Toezicht op het Welzijn op het Werk.
- Over interpretatie van de regelgeving: schriftelijk bij de Algemene Directie Humanisering van de Arbeid.