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Ensuring workplace safety: a short guide to EU laws and the critical role of office functions

Published:

June 12, 2024

Updated:

June 13, 2024

Workplace safety isn't just a box to tick for modern businesses—it's a lifeline.

Countries have different legislation and safety standards, which can sometimes be challenging. However, not following the rules can result in bigger problems, such as hefty fines, legal issues, or worse, harm to your employees and your business reputation. So, following the rules is just the start.

The real game-changer? Office functions.

This guide outlines the critical EU laws you need to know and explains how understanding and defining your office functions can make your workplace safer and more efficient. Discover why this strategy is key in your safety arsenal and how it can help you meet legal requirements, enhance the well-being of your employees, and increase your business's productivity.

Legal frameworks across Europe

What are European countries’ specific requirements? Let's explore them in detail.

United Kingdom

Flag of United Kingdom

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

  • Purpose: Ensure employees' health, safety, and welfare.
  • Key requirements for employers:
  • Regular risk assessments to identify potential hazards.
  • Implement necessary safety measures to mitigate identified risks.
  • Provide employees with information, training, and supervision to ensure safety.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

  • Purpose: Strengthen the Health and Safety at Work Act.
  • Key requirements for employers:
  • Establish procedures for serious and imminent danger.
  • Provide appropriate health surveillance to monitor employee health and safety.
  • Ensure that employees are aware of emergency procedures and can execute them effectively.

Fire Safety Order 2005

  • Purpose: Ensure fire safety in the workplace.
  • Key requirements for employers:
  • Conduct a comprehensive fire risk assessment of the premises.
  • Implement and maintain appropriate fire safety measures.
  • Provide and keep clear emergency routes and exits.

France

Flag of France

Code du Travail (Labour Code) - Articles R4227-1 to R4227-41; Décret n° 2008-244

  • Purpose: Comprehensive workplace safety regulation.
  • Key requirements for employers:
  • Implement measures for fire prevention and evacuation ready for emergencies.
  • Provide and maintain adequate safety equipment to handle emergencies.

Italy

Flag of Italy

Decreto Legislativo 81/08 (Health and Safety at Work)

  • Purpose: Protect workers' health and safety through systematic risk management.
  • Key requirements for employers:
  • Assess all risks to workers' health and safety.
  • Provide health and safety training to all employees.
  • Communicate emergency procedures to ensure a quick and effective response.

Decreto Ministeriale 10/03/1998

  • Purpose: Define technical fire safety standards in the workplace.
  • Key requirements for employers:
  • Conduct regular fire safety inspections to ensure compliance with safety standards.
  • Maintain and regularly inspect fire safety equipment to ensure its effectiveness during emergencies.

Spain

Flag of Spain

Ley de Prevención de Riesgos Laborales (Law on Prevention of Occupational Risks)

  • Purpose: Prevent occupational risks and protect workers' health and safety.
  • Key requirements for employers:
  • Conduct and document thorough risk assessments.
  • Develop and regularly update safety plans and emergency measures.
  • Continuously train and disseminate information about workplace safety.

Germany

Flag of Germany

Arbeitsschutzgesetz (Occupational Safety and Health Act)

  • Purpose: to safeguard and improve workers' safety and health protection at work through occupational safety and health measures.
  • Key requirements for employers:
  • Conduct risk assessments and implement necessary safety measures.
  • Inform and train employees on safety measures and emergency procedures.
  • Take the measures needed for first aid, fire-fighting, and the evacuation of workers.
  • Enable workers to undergo regular preventive medical check-ups at their request, depending on their safety and health risks at work.

Arbeitsstättenverordnung (Workplaces Ordinance)

  • Purpose: Define standards for the design and maintenance of workplace facilities as well as the safety and health of workers.
  • Key requirements for employers:
  • Ensure that the risk assessment is carried out competently.
  • Must maintain workplaces and ensure that any defects are remedied without delay.
  • Ensure emergency exits are adequately designed and maintained.
  • Maintain appropriate lighting and first aid provisions.
  • Take the necessary measures to ensure that employees who do not smoke are effectively protected at the workplace from the risks to their health caused by the smoke and fumes of tobacco and cannabis products and e-cigarettes.

Austria

Flag of Austria

ArbeitnehmerInnenschutzgesetz (Workers Protection Act)

  • Purpose: Ensure the safety and health of workers in all aspects of work.
  • Key requirements for employers:
  • Identify and assess the risks to the safety and health of workers.
  • Provide regular safety training to employees.
  • Conduct frequent safety audits and inspections to ensure ongoing compliance.

Feuerpolizeigesetz (Fire Police Act)

  • Purpose: Prevention of fires and the restriction of air pollution caused by the operation of combustion plants.
  • Key requirements for employers:
  • Implement and maintain fire safety measures.
  • Conduct regular fire drills and inspections of fire safety equipment.

Switzerland

Flag of Switzerland

Arbeitsgesetz (Labour Act)

  • Purpose: Ensure health and safety in the workplace.
  • Key requirements for employers:
  • Establish and maintain health and safety measures and emergency procedures.
  • Conduct regular training and drills to prepare employees for emergencies.

Verordnung 3 zum Arbeitsgesetz (Ordinance 3 of the Labour Act)

  • Purpose: Provide detailed regulations on safety standards in the workplace.
  • Key requirements for employers:
  • Ensure emergency exits, first aid provisions, and fire safety measures are in place and up to standard.
  • Regularly train employees on safety protocols and emergency procedures.

Emergency responders required in workplaces - overview

Country General requirement
Switzerland 1 responder for every 20 employees for most workplaces, with increased numbers for higher-risk environments.
Austria It varies by state, but there is generally 1 responder per 100 employees (for low-risk workplaces) and 1 in every 25 employees in offices with riskier operations.
Germany There must be at least 1 responder for every 20 employees. The number grows with higher requirements in riskier sectors like manufacturing.
France Minimum 1 responder for every 20 employees, with more for higher-risk or larger sites.
Italy For low-risk workplaces (e.g., offices), typically, one responder is required for every 100 employees.
For medium-risk workplaces (e.g., light industrial), one responder is needed for every 50 employees.
For high-risk workplaces (e.g., construction), one responder is required for every 25 employees​.
UK The number is determined by risk assessment: low risk (e.g., offices) typically 1 per 100 employees; higher risk (e.g., light industrial) 1 per 50; and for high risk (e.g., construction) 1 per 25.

Why office functions matter to workplace safety

Efficient evacuation

Emergencies are unpredictable, but preparation can save lives. 

Accurate checking of who is in the office and their precise locations significantly enhances evacuation efficiency. This ensures that no one is left behind and everyone reaches safety quickly. For example, under the UK's Fire Safety Order 2005, employers must provide and clear emergency routes and exits. Knowing who is where can streamline this process in an evacuation, preventing chaos and potential tragedy.

With deskbird, you won’t need to manually handle the list of who is in the office; simply check the app and see who is there!

Accountability and quick response

Accountability is critical during an emergency. 

Having transparency in office functions ensures that employees are all accounted for, helping identify who might still be inside the building. In large offices, especially those with multiple floors or sections, knowing the exact location of employees allows for a faster and more targeted response, potentially saving lives. Moreover, this system can empower employees to take an active role in their safety by ensuring they are aware of emergency procedures and can execute them effectively.

With deskbird, you can also locate the emergency responders: just a click to know the floor, room, and names. This information is vital for emergency responders who need to know if anyone requires rescue. 

Safety drills and communication

Regular safety drills are a crucial part of emergency preparedness. Laws across Europe, such as Italy's Decreto Legislativo 81/08 and Spain's Ley de Prevención de Riesgos Laborales, mandate these drills to ensure employees are well-versed in emergency procedures. A clear overview of office functions during drills helps monitor participation and effectiveness, ensuring all employees understand and execute safety protocols.

Effective communication is crucial in an emergency. 

With deskbird, for example, you can broadcast emergency announcements, ensuring all employees receive timely updates and instructions. This can reduce panic and provide a coordinated response, essential in high-stress situations.

Conclusion

The diverse legal frameworks across Europe highlight a common goal: protecting employees through rigorous safety standards and emergency preparedness.

With full transparency on office functions, you, as a business owner or manager, can ensure legal compliance and the safety and well-being of your employees. This proactive approach is essential in creating a safe and efficient workplace prepared for emergencies. Your role in this process is crucial, and your commitment to workplace safety is paramount.

→ Want to learn more about office functions? Book a free demo and test it out!