Internal service for prevention and protection at work
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Single service principle
Every company or institution must set up an internal service for prevention and protection at work. This service is designed to assist the employer, members of line management and workers in applying the regulations relating to workers' well-being. This is front-line prevention, in which an effort is made to approach problems in a multidisciplinary way. The former company medical service has been integrated into the internal service as a department responsible for health supervision.
Principle of creating the service at the highest level, but with establishment of a relationship with the consultation bodies
The structure of the internal service is specified in Articles 34 to 37 of the Act of 4 August 1996 on well-being of workers in the performance of their work. The internal service must be created at the highest level of the company even if there are committees for prevention and protection at work, because it is at this level that policy decisions are made. Furthermore, in some cases, sections must be set up within the internal service to promote cooperation between the committees and the internal service.
In the private sector, the structure of this internal service is adapted to the presence or absence of a committee for prevention and protection at work in the company. The structure is therefore determined by taking into account the technical operating unit, as established when these committees were set up. The need to align the committee and the internal service stems from the fact that the committee is entitled to have a single preferred contact. This makes it easier for the internal service and the committee to work closely together. Consequently, in some cases the internal service must be comprised of sections. This structure also has an impact on the minimum number of Prevention Advisors that must be present in the internal service. However, this parallelism is limited by the fact that the "central service" may have priority over the section and that there are therefore two levels within the internal service. This is not the case for the committees for prevention and protection at work, which are specific to a single technical operating unit. Where, for example, there is a specific committee for the company's head office, this committee has no coordinating action in relation to the committees of the places of business.
For public services, a structure equivalent to that applicable in the private sector has been provided, based on their own union status. Here too, the internal service must be created at the highest level. In practical terms, this is the responsibility of a high-level consultation committee, even if this high-level consultation committee has no authority whatsoever regarding well-being at work. This is therefore a technical way of defining the highest level.
Principle according to which the Prevention Advisor belongs to the employer's personnel
Principle of the internal service management
If there is more than one Prevention Advisor in the internal service, one of them will be responsible for managing the service. If sections are created within the service and if there is more than one Prevention Advisor within a section, one of them will be responsible for managing the section.
The principle of the management of the service must be interpreted flexibly and be implemented in accordance with the specific organisation of each internal service. Indeed, it can be seen that on the one hand, a section is structurally dependent on the central service. This dependency relates to the organisation of prevention activities carried out by the service and for which there is a tendency towards a certain unity of action. On the other hand, the section is also dependent on the technical operating unit for which it is set up, including through contacts with the committee for prevention and protection at work and by the specific nature of the activity developed by this technical operating unit (administrative tasks arising from production tasks). This form of structural dependency may result in the section actually acquiring greater autonomy. Given these shifts within the two forms of structural dependency, which may lead to a certain form of autonomy, the management of a service can move from a strictly hierarchical form to a more coordinating role. This may determine the location from which the service is managed (head office or place of business).
The choice of the person responsible for managing the service may be influenced by the discipline that is most relevant to a multidisciplinary approach.
Internal service structure in the private sector
In the private sector, the planned structure can be summarised as follows:
- one employer without a committee and employing fewer than twenty workers = one service with at least one Prevention Advisor. In principle, this person is a worker subject to an employment contract. In this case, the employer may also act as a Prevention Advisor;
- one employer without a committee and employing more than twenty workers = one service with at least one Prevention Advisor. This person is always a worker subject to an employment contract. Where there are several Prevention Advisors, one of them is responsible for managing the service;
- one employer with a single committee = one service with at least one Prevention Advisor. Where there are several Prevention Advisors, one of them is responsible for managing the service;
- one employer with several committees = one service with one section per committee. There is at least one Prevention Advisor per section and one for the entire service. Example: an employer with two committees has to create a service with two sections. Each section is managed by a Prevention Advisor who is also employed in that section. The same Prevention Advisor cannot be in charge of two different sections. A Prevention Advisor must also be appointed to manage the entire internal service: the extent to which the same Prevention Advisor can manage the entire internal service and a section of the same service depends on the practical situation within the company and can in no way compromise the operation of the internal service. It may therefore be possible for the same Prevention Advisor to manage the entire internal service and one of his sections, provided that they are also effectively employed in that section;
- if different employers have created a single committee because they form a single technical operating unit = one service with at least one Prevention Advisor. Where there are several Prevention Advisors, one of them is responsible for managing the service.
The employer is free to decide on the organisation of the sections themselves, depending on the duties to be performed. If there are several Prevention Advisors in a section, one of them is responsible for managing the section.
Internal service structure in the public sector
If the union status of the Act of 19 December 1974 applies, the following rules apply:
- several high-level consultation committees and a single public service = one internal service per high-level consultation committee, for example in education;
- a single high-level consultation committee and a single public service = a single internal service;
- a single high-level consultation committee and several public services = a single internal service per public service;
- a public service with basic consultation committees for at least 50 staff members = a single internal service possibly with sections.
If another union status providing for the application of health and safety provisions is applicable, the following rules shall apply:
- one public service = one internal service;
- one public service with several consultation bodies for at least 50 staff members = a single internal service possibly with sections.
If there is no union status or where the union status does not provide for health and safety regulations, the same rules apply as for the private sector.
Employers are classified into four groups (A, B, C and D) depending on the number of workers employed and the nature of the risks to which workers are exposed. If a company carries out several activities which do not all have the same level of risk, the distribution of employers is established based on the activity (or activities) with the highest risk, taking into account the total number of workers employed in that activity. The employer can also move to another group if the total number of workers in his company has exceeded a certain threshold (1,000, 200).
- Group A includes employers with a total of more than 1,000 workers. This number is reduced to 500, 200, or even 50, if the number of workers engaged in certain at-risk activities reaches this limit (e.g. 500 workers for the water catchment, purification and distribution industry; 200 workers for the construction sector; 50 workers for the petrochemical industry);
- Group B includes employers employing a total of between 200 and 1,000 workers. This number is reduced to 100, 50, or even 20, if the number of workers engaged in certain at-risk activities reaches this limit (e.g. 100 workers for the water catchment, purification and distribution industry; 50 workers for the construction sector; 20 workers for the petrochemical industry);
- Group C includes employers with fewer than 200 workers who do not have specific risks;
- Group D includes employers with fewer than 20 workers where the employer is the Prevention Advisor.
The division into groups is important for establishing the basic duties that must always be carried out by the internal service and for determining additional training for the Prevention Advisor who may or may not be responsible for managing the internal service.
The duties of the internal service are advisory:
- participate in the identification of hazards and advise on the risk analysis, the overall prevention plan and the annual action plan;
- participate in investigating the causes of industrial accidents;
- give an opinion on the various topics that concern the entire Code on Well-being at Work, including working with third parties;
- give opinions on the drafting of instructions and the information, reception and training of workers;
- be available to individuals present in the company for all matters relating to the application of the legislation;
- participate in the application of measures to be taken in the event of serious and immediate danger, in the development of internal emergency procedures and in the organisation of first aid.
In addition to the duties mentioned above, Prevention Advisors/Occupational Physicians also have their own specific duties:
- examine the interaction between people and work and the into the harmonization of both;
- provide health supervision;
- supervise the organisation of first aid and emergency care.
These duties are reflected through a number of practical tasks, namely activities that must be carried out in order to fulfil the duties, such as:
- carry out workplace and workstation reviews, under his own initiative, at the request of the employer, workers or the committee;
- at least once a year, carry out a thorough review of workplaces and workstations;
- investigate occupational accidents and incidents and carry out any other investigations deemed relevant to the improvement of workers' well-being;
- carry out analyses and checks or arrange to have these carried out;
- become familiar with manufacturing processes, working methods, work procedures and the components of work organisation and review these in order to propose measures to reduce risks;
- keep the documentation on legislation, required documents, the inventory of certain devices and machines, hazardous substances and mixtures and emission points concerning air and water pollution up to date;
- write monthly reports, quarterly reports, annual reports and occupational accident forms;
- follow the procedure for the standard "prevention policy";
- keep the communications given to the public authorities up to date.
Prevention Advisors/Occupational Physicians must ensure that workers receive first aid and must make a declaration of occupational diseases.
These duties and tasks can be carried out both by the internal service and by an external service. However, some basic duties and tasks must still be carried out internally. In groups A and B, this includes, for example, the risk analysis, collaboration in the reception of workers, instructions and training. For tasks, this includes, for example, the procedure for purchasing work equipment. For Group C employers, this still includes, for example, workplace surveys and report writing tasks.
Where an employer does not have a health supervision department, his duties are carried out by an external service.
The duties related to risk analysis and certain investigations of occupational accidents must always be carried out by an external service for Group C employers, where there are no Prevention Advisors with additional training, and for Group D employers.
In all cases, the internal service has an important coordinating role when an external service is used.
- 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.