Coordination at the workplace

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    Work at the same workplace or at adjoining or neighbouring workplaces

    Preliminary remark:

    The Act of 4 August 1996 on well-being of workers in the performance of their work introduces general regulations that address the various aspects of work at the same workplace. Chapter III lays down a general principle in this respect which also applies to businesses or institutions which have not established a contractual relationship between themselves. Chapter IV deals specifically with working with third parties (for more information, see the topic "Working with third parties") and work by temporary workers for user undertakings (for more information, see the topic "Temporary work"). Chapter V contains specific regulations for work on temporary or mobile construction sites, which is the legal basis for the transposition of Directive 92/57/EEC of 24 June 1992 on the implementation of minimum health and safety requirements at temporary or mobile construction sites (for more information, see the topic "Temporary or mobile construction sites").

    Commentary on Article 7 of the Act

    This article covers two fields of application:

    • Article 7, § 1 covers the obligation of different businesses or institutions which are active in the same workplace where workers are employed. This obligation is greatly influenced by the notion of "workplace". According to Article 3, § 1, 15° of the Act, this is "any place where work is done, regardless whether it is inside or outside a facility and regardless whether this is in an enclosed or open space".
    • Article 7, § 2 refers to the obligation of different businesses or institutions with regard to shared equipment and systems when they operate in adjoining or neighbouring workplaces.

    Article 7, § 1

    The obligation referred to in Article 7, § 1 is directed at all businesses or institutions.

    The notion of business refers to the legal entity. This can mean employers as well as sole proprietorships or unstaffed offices. Basically, the concept usually refers to economic activity, but in this context, it is broadly interpreted, so that one professional activity is sufficient.

    The concept of institution refers to a legal entity, without designation of the activity that is carried out.

    In this respect, it is not important whether or not they themselves employ workers or whether they employ personnel, but not at this location. It refers as much to a self-employed contractor as a company with several employees or a public institution or authority.

    For these businesses or institutions, the obligation arises when they operate in the same workplace. There is therefore only an obligation if several businesses or institutions are present at a given place, at least one of which employs workers who must work there.

    When this condition is fulfilled, every person working in that place, i.e. every person who carries out a professional activity in that place, is subject to this regulation, even self-employed contractors.

    The obligation concerns collaboration, coordination and exchange of information between the parties.

    The content of the information to be exchanged is that referred to in the Framework Directive on the health and safety of workers (89/391/EEC, Article 10.1.). This concerns, as appropriate, measures relating to first aid, firefighting and evacuation or preventive measures and activities for each type of workstation, position or activity, provided that it is relevant in order to fulfil the obligations relating to coordination and collaboration for the protection of the workers present. Consequently, it is not necessary to provide information for every workstation, position or activity, only for those where the provision of information is relevant in the context of the obligation to collaborate and coordinate.

    Article 7, § 2

    This article develops a measure for adjoining or neighbouring workplaces located in the same immovable property.

    All businesses or institutions operating in adjoining or neighbouring workplaces, located in the same immovable property with, among other things, shared equipment or evacuation systems must collaborate and coordinate in the use and, where appropriate, management of the shared equipment and systems.

    Examples include office buildings where different companies rent one or more floors. In accordance with the definition of workplace in Article 3, § 1, 15° of the Act, the office building does not constitute a single workplace, but is comprised of several workplaces for which each tenant company is principally responsible. Staircases, lifts and air conditioning units in such a building are not part of the workplace, but are common parts and equipment which may influence the well-being of the workers working in these workplaces. In such an office building, the third floor, for example, is adjacent to the second and fourth floors, but neighbours the first and fifth floors. A business centre is another example of a possible application. The presence of equipment or systems to be used in common, which may have an influence on the health and safety of workers, is essential for the application of this article.

    Article 7, § 3

    Article 7, § 3 makes it optional for the King to intervene in issuing implementing decrees.

    This means that the procedures regarding the obligation to collaborate and coordinate or the way in which the exchange of information is to take place can be determined by Royal Decree, but that such a Decree will not necessarily be issued. In other words, the obligations exist, but the parties can determine for themselves how they will carry out these obligations and how they will be implemented, as long as no implementing decree is issued. This could, for example, be the subject of agreements or other collective arrangements, such as collective agreements.

    Article 7, § 4

    The purpose of this article is to make it clear that the scope of application of Chapter III cannot overlap with the scope of application of Chapters IV and V.

    Of course, the provisions of Chapter III remain applicable to the work referred to in Article 12, § 1, 1° until such time as the King makes the obligations of Articles 9 and 10 applicable to this work. More specifically, this concerns work carried out in an employer's facility by outside undertakings or self-employed persons without having entered into a contract with the aforementioned employer, for example, work carried out in the context of the free movement of goods and services or work carried out by workers of organisations attending meetings at another employer's facility.