External services for technical inspections at the workplace
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Pursuant to Article 40, § 2 of the Act of 4 August 1996 on well-being of workers in the performance of their work, external services for technical inspections at the workplace are approved. The subject is covered in title 5 of book II of the Code on Well-being at Work on the approval of external services for technical inspections at the workplace.
The employer must in certain cases use an external service for technical inspections approved to carry out certain examinations and checks of machinery, installations, work equipment and protective equipment in order to establish their compliance with the legislation and to identify defects which may affect the well-being of workers in the performance of their work.
External services for technical inspections at the workplace must adopt the legal form of a non-profit organisation (or its equivalent). The corporate purpose of the legal entity is the management of the service and the accomplishment of its duties. In order to be approved, external services for technical inspections must first be accredited in accordance with the NBN EN ISO/IEC 17020 standard (either by Belac or by another institution that is a co-signatory of the recognition agreements of the "European Co-operation for Accreditation").
It is repeatedly stressed in title 5 of book II of the Code that this service must be independent. For this reason, it cannot be an external service for prevention and protection at work at the same time. It can carry out examinations and checks other than those provided for by law if this does not compromise his independence and there can be no conflict of interest with the persons involved in the design, manufacture, installation or use of the various devices and resources they control.
The service must have the necessary technical staff who meet the following requirements:
- thorough technical and professional training;
- receive thorough training and retraining within the service;
- familiar with the regulations and experienced in inspections;
- able to write reports.
The Minister decides on the approval of the external service for technical inspections at the workplace: approval may be granted in whole or in part, for a fixed period of time, or may be refused. Provision is also made for a sanction mechanism which means that the approval of an external service for technical inspections which is not compliant by the end of the imposed period, may be limited or withdrawn or that a provisional approval may be granted.
External services for technical inspections at the workplace (ESTI) and approved bodies (AB) carry out inspections of equipment and facilities such as lifts, mobile platform lifts, electrical installations, steam appliances, etc. on behalf of an employer and in application of the regulations.
Inspectors from the Directorate General of Supervision of Well-being at Work (DG CBE) of the FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue (FPS ETCS) sometimes find, during their inspection visits to companies or institutions, problems or malfunctions relating to the inspections in question. Such problems or malfunctions are also sometimes reported by employers or workers to DG CBE.
This information (inspectors' findings, information provided by employers and workers, ...) is centralised by the watch dogs of the ESTI network, in order to have a more global view of the functioning of the ESTIs and ABs.
Due to this centralisation of findings, targeted actions can be taken, not only against a specific ESTI or AB but also at the level of the sector as a whole.
The watch dogs for the ESTI network maintain useful contacts with FPS Economy, SMEs, Self-Employed and Energy (which is responsible for the approval of the AB), with Belac (part of the FPS Economy, SMEs, Self-Employed and Energy which is responsible for accreditations), with the Directorate General for Humanisation of Work of the FPS ETCS (which is responsible for the approval of ESTI and the regulations relating to this approval) and with the ESTI and AB directly if necessary.
- Firstly, with the prevention advisor of the internal and/or external service for prevention and protection at work.
- Secondly, with the competent regional directorate for Supervision of Well-being at Work.
- Questions on the interpretation of the legislation: in writing to the Directorate-General for Humanisation of Labour.