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Well-being of workers

Well-being policy

The employer is responsible for introducing a well-being policy in his undertaking. He must work out a general policy and issue instructions to his managerial staff, line managers and workers for the implementation of this policy.

The employer must adapt his well-being policy in light of practical experience gained, the development of working methods, and working conditions.
He is responsible for the structural planning of prevention via a dynamic risk control system with regard to "well-being". This concept includes safety at work, the protection of the health of workers at work, psycho-social stress caused by work, ergonomics, hygiene at work, embellishment of the workplace and measures of the undertaking regarding the environment.

A characteristic feature of the dynamic risk control system is the planning of prevention and the application of the workers' welfare policy to control risks through detection and analysis and the adoption of specific measures of prevention. The dynamic aspect means that this is an ongoing process which develops progressively and permanently adapts to changing circumstances.

An employer should therefore make an analysis of the risks within his undertaking on the basis of which he can take preventive measures.
A preventive measure may consist of making personal protection equipment available free of charge, e.g. a fall-arrest harness, shoes to protect workers from dropped heavy objects, welding goggles, etc.  The employer should see to it that workers actually use this protective gear and use it correctly. He should take the measures necessary to ensure that the workers have sufficient information and instructions about protective equipment at work. The information and instructions should be drawn up in writing and be understandable to the workers concerned.
This is not always obvious for foreign workers. Line managers have the important task of ensuring that these workers properly understand and use the information they have received in accordance with the law on the well-being of workers at work. Employers should also verify compliance with these instructions.

Temporary or mobile construction sites

A temporary or mobile construction site means any construction site at which building or civil engineering works are carried out; a list of such works is laid down by the Crown.

The following parties are involved in temporary or mobile construction sites:

  • The client: the natural or legal person for whom a project is carried out.
     
  • The project supervisor: the natural or legal person responsible for the design or execution or supervision of execution of a project, acting on behalf of the client. These tasks are assigned to three separate persons: the project supervisor responsible for the design, the project supervisor responsible for execution and the project supervisor responsible for supervising the execution. The reason for this is the need to take account of the reality on the building site. The project supervisor responsible for the design may be an architect or an engineering firm, for instance for the construction of technical installations. Public institutions often designate a person who in connection with public procurement should verify compliance with the law. This person may be regarded as the project supervisor responsible for supervising execution.
     
  • The contractor: the natural or legal person who performs activities during the execution of the project, irrespective of whether he is an employer or self-employed person or an employer who works on the site together with his workers.
    However, a private person who carries out work himself is not regarded as a contractor.
    This concept also differs from the concept of the project supervisor responsible for execution. The latter is the person who bears full responsibility for the execution of a construction project whereas the concept of contractor in the present context refers to those who effectively carry out the activities. However, this does not mean that the project supervisor responsible for execution may be a "contractor" in the usual sense of the term. In this case, he is in practice often referred to as the main contractor.
     
  • The coordinator for safety and health matters in the project design stage: the person entrusted by the client or project supervisor with ensuring safety and health coordination in the project design stage.
     
  • The coordinator for safety and health matters in the project execution stage: the person entrusted by the client, the project supervisor responsible for execution or the project supervisor responsible for supervision of execution with ensuring safety and health coordination in the project execution stage.
     
  • The workers.

In the execution of the project, the client, the project supervisor responsible for execution or the project supervisor responsible for supervision of execution are responsible for organising the coordination of the activities of all persons present on the construction site and cooperation between them. This applies equally when they are present on the construction site simultaneously or in succession.
They are also responsible for designating a safety and health coordinator during the implementation of the project.
The first project supervisor responsible for execution who operates on the site should serve prior notice to the competent authority that a construction site is being set up, if this is required.

All contractors must comply with the safety and health provisions laid down by royal decree. This applies to ordinary employers and to self-employed persons and employers who themselves work on the site together with their employees.
The project supervisor responsible for execution, the contractors and the subcontractors should for the project also be able to seek the assistance of other contractors and subcontractors.

In the present context, subcontractor means a contractor within the meaning of this Act who carries out work for another contractor. In order to guarantee the safety and health of all workers, various levels of responsibility should be established, reflecting the place which each contractor occupies in the project chain. This scheme assumes the existence of a vertical relationship in which a project supervisor responsible for execution seeks the assistance of contractors. However, it may be that the client himself chooses various contractors without procuring the services of a project supervisor. In this case, there is no vertical relationship but a horizontal one between various contractors operating on the same level. In this case, it must be accepted that the client himself plays the role of project supervisor responsible for execution of the project.

The project supervisor responsible for execution is at the top of the pyramid. He has the following obligations:

  • he must comply with the safety and health requirements himself
  • he must ensure that they are complied with by all contractors and subcontractors involved in executing the project, even if he only has an indirect link with these contractors or subcontractors
  • he must also ensure compliance by the workers

The contractor has the following obligations:

  • he himself must comply with the safety and health requirements
  • he must ensure that his own direct subcontractor complies with them
  • he must also ensure that his subcontractor's subcontractors and every other subcontractor down the line comply with them
  • he must ensure that the workers comply with them
  • he must ensure that anyone posting workers to him complies with them 

The subcontractor has the following obligations:

  • he himself must comply with the safety and health requirements
  • he must ensure that his own direct subcontractor complies with them
  • he must ensure that his own workers and his direct subcontractor's workers comply with them
  • he must ensure that anyone posting workers to him complies with them

In the public sector, the Act on public procurement remains in force. However, in applying this Act account will have to be taken of the principles laid down in the Well-being Act.

In accordance with Article 87 of the Well-being Act, imprisonment from eight days to one year and/or a fine of €50 to €2000 (to be multiplied by 5.5) may be imposed on any persons involved in carrying out the project who fail to comply with the provisions on workers' well-being. An administrative fine may be imposed on them of between €250 and €5000.

Moreover, Article 32 makes provision for the possibility of setting up a coordination structure on the construction site. This structure may involve, among others, the project supervisors, representatives of the contractors and of the workers, and prevention advisers. The setting-up of such a structure depends on the scope of the construction site and the degree of the risks. The intention is that only large-scale construction sites are required to establish such a coordination structure.
The specific implementing procedures of the principles set out above are laid down in the Royal Decree of 25 January 2001 on temporary or mobile construction sites.

Legislation

The Act of 4 August 1996 on well-being of workers in the performance of their work and its implementing decisions apply to every employer who employs workers in Belgium.
This Act transposes into Belgian law the framework Council Directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work.

FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue

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