Standards are an important element in prevention activity for safe and healthy workplaces. Elaborated at European and increasingly also at international level, they set out technical requirements for products and define measurement methods for emissions such as noise, vibration, radiation and harmful substances. At the same time, standards increasingly impact upon non-technical areas such as the harmonization of OSH management systems or on social responsibility.
Founded in 1994, the Commission for Occupational Health and Safety and Standardization (KAN) has the purpose of observing the standardization process and ensuring that standards makers devote sufficient attention to the needs of occupational safety and health (OSH).
How it works
The OSH interests of various institutions – the social partners, the State, the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) and DIN – are collectively represented in opinions on current and planned standardization projects. KAN itself is not a standardization body; its resolutions on occupational safety and health and standardization take the form of recommendations which are based on as broad a consensus as possible of all the relevant institutions involved in OSH.
KAN focuses on
- formulating fundamental OSH positions on important issues of the standardization process,
- assessing the content of standards to determine whether they meet the OSH requirements from the German point of view and comply with the protection goals specified in EU directives,
- exerting influence on standardization programmes and mandates (mandates are issued by the European Commission to the private CEN/CENELEC standards bodies),
- checking whether there is a need for standardization from the point of view of OSH,
- obtaining and providing or distributing information on standardization work for OSH experts.
KAN aims its recommendations and opinions
- mainly directly at the standardization level at DIN and its standards committees if individual national, European or international standardization projects are concerned;
- at the political level at the Federal Government if fundamental issues of standardization, the interpretation of directives and the mandating of standardization projects are concerned. The German government passes them on to the European Commission.
In addition, the national associations represented in KAN contribute their views to the standardization debate through their European partner organizations.
KAN is composed of five representatives each of the employers, the trade unions and the State,
- two of whom are from the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS), the department of the Federal Government responsible for occupational safety and health,
- with the other three coming from the supreme OSH authorities of the Länder (federal states)
plus one representative each from DIN, the German Standards Institute and the Association for the Promotion of Occupational Safety in Europe (VFA) / German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV), which represents the committees of experts of the statutory accident insurance institutions.
With the Central Agricultural Social Insurance Fund (SVLFG) as a permanent guest, all statutory accident insurance institutions are thus involved in KAN's work.
This essentially tripartite membership complies with the demand of the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC (Art. 7 Par. 4) for an improvement in the involvement of the social partners in standardization. KAN has gone a step further by establishing one office each for the social partners at its Secretariat.
The funding of KAN is shared by VFA and BMAS.
Occupational Safety and Health lobby as stakeholder
Standards institutes offer "stakeholders" in standardization a forum for the development of standards in a consensus-oriented process. The occupational safety and health lobby is one of these stakeholders. In Germany, DIN Presidial Decision 14/2012 for example designates KAN as the institution through which the consolidated position of the occupational safety and health lobby is presented to standardization.
Example: Visibility on mobile machinery
In order for mobile machinery such as industrial trucks or excavators to be operated safely, drivers must have good visibility of the area surrounding the machine. Standards exist which describe measurement methods and which in some cases specify criteria for good visibility (e.g. ISO 5006 “Earth-moving machinery – Operator's field of view – Test method and performance criteria"). Maintain the high quality of these standards is a major concern to OSH experts because the standards have a strong impact on the safety level of mobile machinery. Information on users’ experience and also on accidents is collected and presented to the standardization process. The OSH experts call for requirements to be included in the standard that improve the visibility in the area immediately surrounding the machine (distance of 1 m from the periphery of the machine) in order for kneeling workers, for example, to be visible. At the same time, visibility in the 12-m radius must also be improved. The standard should require equipment such as a CCTV system that provides drivers with sufficient visibility around the machine-
Example: Personal protective equipment and standardization
Standardization in the area of personal protective equipment (PPE) is an example of how product requirements and test methods are combined in order to fulfil the requirements of both legislation and practicability. In the EU, PPE must meet the requirements of the PPE Directive, 89/686/EEC. Before being placed on the market, most products must be tested by independent test bodies. Standards support the general requirements of the directive. At the same time, standards describe the tests with which the product characteristics are tested. Following publication of the PPE Directive, a successful system of standards has been developed, particularly at CEN. Continuous development of these standards ensures that new findings and new product developments are included in them. OSH experts are strongly involved in PPE standardization. Feedback from the field and from test bodies is used to develop the standards further.
Ergonomics and standardization
The project was initiated in 2008 and is financed by the Commission for Occupational Health and Safety and Standardization (KAN) in Germany.
The goal of the project is to provide lecture modules containing information on ergonomics and ergonomics standardization. The teaching materials are intended to enable lecturers and students to acquire the knowledge needed to design products and workplaces in consideration of ergonomic principles. The modules describe solutions to problems which may arise when ergonomic aspects are ignored during the design process. The content was prepared such that the economic benefit of implementing ergonomic findings is also illustrated.
The specialist ergonomic knowledge was compiled in five tuition modules together with examples of good practice. Altogether, the material can be delivered in five ninety-minute lectures. The tuition modules take the form of Powerpoint presentations with more than 500 slides (including notes for lecturers). The tuition concept is supported by a collection of illustrative before-and-after cases (example video clips, photographs and text). All modules list references to standards concerning the topics covered. Solved test questions and exercises are also made available exclusively to lecturers at institutes of higher education.
Benefits at a glance
- Ready-made teaching materials save time
- Sound expert knowledge based upon the most recent research findings and standards
- Including video clips and case studies, exercises and test questions
- Also suitable for adaptation and selective use as a supplement to other materials
- With references to more detailed literature
- Regularly updated
- Available in German and English
- For use at no cost
To download the modules, a brief and free registration procedure must be completed.
Furthermore, KAN provides a guide to applying anthropometric data. It contains the results of a KAN study into the proper selection and application of anthropometric data and presents them in a user-friendly way. Users can follow a flow chart step by step, or obtain answers to specific questions. This guide is available online free of charge (currently only in German).
Requirements concerning the health and safety of workers at work are not to be formulated in standards. The employer must comply with the relevant OSH provisions. The protection of the health and safety of employees at work is subject to regulation at the national level and directives pursuant to Article 153 of the EC Treaty apply. These directives only set minimum requirements; Member States are allowed to set more stringent regulations when transferring them into national law. Occupational health and safety aspects which should not be included in standards or other deliverables include for example:
- Equipping of workplaces with secondary safety technology, e.g. emergency exits for employees
- Definition of workplace limit values
- Corporate organization and implementation of OSH measures, e.g. by means of OSH management systems
- Training in OSH issues
- OSH medical examinations
- Use of personal protective equipment
Example: Standardization in the field of services
Especially where services have a strong focus on the customer (e.g. Beauty Salon Services - Requirements and recommendations for the provision of service (prEN 16708)), there is a fine line for the standardization of services in order to avoid that the standards conflict with national OSH provisions.
The aim is that of improving the quality of the service for the customer, and explicitly not that of improving the safety and health of the employees or those providing the service. Provisions governing the safety and health of workers at work are subject to national legislation. Examples of requirements that must not be standardized in service standards include: requirements concerning the use of personal protective equipment, equipping of workplaces with technology protecting from certain hazards, OSH medical examinations, training in OSH issues or the definitions of workplace limit values (for further examples see: Standardization of services - comments by the OSH groups represented in KAN).
The standardization of services entails the risk of (1) regulating the same issue several times in different formats (e.g. national regulation or standard) with different degrees of obligation for the provider of the service (2) national responsibilities being disregarded by standardization (see e.g. CEN Guide 15 –Service: Chapter 7.2.3 & TFEU Art. 153); (3) confusing the user of the standards, where documents are formulated too vaguely and leave broad room for interpretation.
CEN Guide 15 “Guidance document for the development of service standards" states very clearly: Requirements concerning the health and safety of workers at work are not to be formulated in service standards.
EUROSHNET is a network for cooperation between European OSH professionals active in standardization, testing, certification, and/or related research. It is supported by a Steering Committee and a Working Group with members from Finland, France, Germany, Poland and Spain. Over 700 experts from 20 European countries are registered with the network (www.euroshnet.eu).
The essential aims of EUROSHNET are as follows:
- To facilitate contact between individual OSH experts
- To promote discussion of issues of common interest
- To disseminate information of interest to occupational safety and health
- To establish and maintain contacts with other networks
EUROSHNET offers a platform for OSH experts to share and discuss experience from the field, best practice examples, gaps detected in individual standards or particular areas of standardization, new technologies, advanced products or the need for further research.
In addition, EUROSHNET organizes conferences at regular intervals (www.euroshnet-conference.eu). Focusing on how to improve the safety of products, the conferences bring together various OSH stakeholders involved in standardization, testing and certification – both at the political and technical level Standardization, testing/certification and related research play an important role in occupational health and safety. In order for standards to lead to safe products, it is however essential that they reflect the requirements of practical use and take into account the experience gained by users in the field. By collecting such input and presenting it to the standardization process, EUROSHNET and the registered experts support the development of high-quality standards, innovation and competitiveness, which in turn lead to safe products and an improvement of safety and health at the workplace.