Health & safety management in Germany

Traditional supplier to the mining industry Schulte Strathaus receives "Safety with System" quality seal

According to statistics published by the professional associations and accident insurance institutes, there were 460,000 occupational accidents reported in the first half of 2011. To improve the safety of the workers in Germany, the federal government presented a national guide for health & safety management at work in 2002. Unconnected to the statutory regulations, these guidelines serve as an orientation tool for companies that voluntarily decide to guarantee their workers a safe environment. Large Germany organisations such as Rewe and E.ON have been implementing these guidelines for the past 10 years; however their implementation has often proven difficult for small and medium-sized businesses.

It took eight months for Schulte Strathaus GmbH & Co. KG to complete all the preparations: In addition to a careful review of the operational processes based on a checklist, both the general management and the staff attended regular training courses. Likewise, risk and stress analyses were also drawn up. The company was only ready for the official and independent examination after all necessary steps had been taken. The result: the company Schulte Strathaus was awarded the "Safety with System" quality seal for the correct implementation of the national health & safety guidelines.

"This certificate allows us to show our customers and staff how important health & safety is for us," says Dr. Michael Schulte Strathaus, managing director of the company. Together with its subsidiary Cyrus, the company has a workforce of 70. Whilst Cyrus specialises in mechanical engineering for the foundry, casting and scrap recycling industry, Schulte Strathaus develops conveyor belt cleaning systems that are mounted to large transportation systems used by the mining and bulk materials industries.

"In assembly operations such as ours, the workers are exposed to a number of changing risks linked to the various work environments," says Schulte Strathaus. It is therefore important to recognise risks in advance and avoid them. According to the managing director, this is only possible if the company is organised efficiently and all persons involved in the process have been trained. A health & safety officer was appointed within the company to coordinate all related tasks. This person regularly attends training courses. Cyrus is also preparing for certification with the quality seal.

The health & safety policy in large companies is often anchored into the corporate organisation. "Lots of companies are even demanding appropriate certification from their suppliers before they place orders," explains Jürgen Kröning, health & safety officer at Schulte Strathaus. In his experience, whilst health & safety is an issue in smaller companies, it is often neglected. "Firstly, the potential consequences under employment law are often inadequately recognised. And secondly, the enormous effort required to install a health & safety system poses a further obstacle," says Kröning. Also there is often a lack of personnel.

From a commercial point of view, protecting staff is advantageous to all companies. An appropriately structured work environment is a motivating factor for the workforce and this has a positive effect on the productivity. Likewise, the federal states and the country as a whole profit: less sick leave and accidentrelated absence reduces the costs of the national health insurance and the payments by the statutory accident insurance organisations. "In this respect, the quality seal confirms the willingness of a company to contribute to economic and health policy causes," summarises Schulte Strathaus.

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