WARNING: DIN SPEC 91020 is not a safety standard!

Samstag, 17. November 2012 - 15:23

Update 2015-12:

As with BS PAS 1010:2011, the German certification industry uses the DIN SPEC 91020 to introduce such a “standard light” to occupational health and saftey. On December 2015 the DAkkS accredits CABs who issue certificates for “health management”. Even though DIN SPEC 91020 is not a safety standard, I fear that it will misused for claims of certified enterprises to have a certified OH&S management.


Update 2014-10:

The PAS procedure is described here: http://www.spec.din.de/cmd?level=tpl-rubrik&menuid=81501&cmsareaid=81501&menurubricid=87633&cmsrubid=87633. But DIN changed the content of that page. Previously (2012-08-17), DIN clearly stated that requests to create a DIN SPEC for OHS would be rejected: “Eine Anfrage, die Aspekte des Arbeits-, Gesundheits-, Umwelt- und Brandschutzes enthält, wird vom DIN grundsätzlich abgelehnt.” However, DIN doesn’t mention that anymore (since mid 2013). Seemingly, the DIN wants to drive their SPEC-business ahead in the first place.

For the CWA procedure you still will find that warning.

For the PAS procedure, the Hamburg University offers the original version.


DIN SPEC 91020 is a helpful Publicly Available Specification (PAS) for Occupational Health Management (OHM). However, the specification does not apply to Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S).

The DIN SPEC 91020 has been initiated by B·A·D, a private company operating in the occupational health market. Later a working group had been established (2012-05):

In http://www.beuth.de/en/technical-rule/din-spec-91020/153182508, “Environmental protection, Occupational safety, Safety DIN-SPEC-91020″ is misleading. A DIN SPEC is a Publicly Available Specification. This is why DIN categorically rejects applications for DIN SPECs related to work safety. (“Eine Anfrage, die Aspekte des Arbeits-, Gesundheits-, Umwelt- und Brandschutzes enthält, wird vom DIN grundsätzlich abgelehnt.”)

Also, “management requirements such as quality, OHS and environmental protection” in http://www.din.de/cmd?level=tpl-artikel&menuid=49589&cmsareaid=49589&cmsrubid=56731&menurubricid=56731&cmstextid=170285&2&languageid=en is misleading, even though that page had been published by DIN. The DIN SPEC 91020 is not “OHS”. It is “OH” only. It does not have the same rank as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. For safety you rather want to use standards like OHSAS 18001 or ILO-OSH.

DIN claims: “DIN also saw to it that operational health management systems already on the market were taken into account in the new DIN SPEC 91020 and that all stakeholders in the field were involved in the development process.” This is quite wrong. Actually, the most important stakeholders had been ignored. Strangely, even though the standard is about the health of employees, representatives of employees were not involved in the development process.


DIN lite

B·A·D’s clever promotion (German and English) of the DIN SPEC 91020: http://www.bad-gmbh.de/fileadmin/user_upload/BAD InForm 03/HTML/files/assets/basic-html/page11.html

… The major difference between OSH management systems and occupational health management is that the former covers risks at the workplace but OHM is generally about preserving or promoting employees’ health. …

At the first glance, preserving or promoting employees’ health sounds well intended. That was the old approach which too often also interferes with the employees’ private life. That is why the european guidelines on work safety took a different approach. In accordance with these guidelines, standards like OHSAS 18001 aim at preserving or promoting healthy workplaces.

http://www.bad-gmbh.de/fileadmin/user_upload/BAD InForm 03/HTML/files/assets/basic-html/page12.html

… Why a DIN SPEC?

Dr Andrea Fluthwedel commented that one of DIN’s goals was to ensure protection targets were met, including those in the fields of consumer protection, safety and environmental protection. “We work in cooperation with a whole range of interest groups, including political representatives, businesses, NGOs, users, religious institutions, trade unionists, social accident insurance institutions and testing bodies – essentially, anyone interested in standards. So you can imagine it’s not always easy to reach a consensus,” she said.

The first DIN SPECs came on the scene in the mid-1990s, with the aim of getting innovative products to market quickly. The process can take three years, from the application until the final document. As Dr Fluthwedel explained: “A DIN SPEC isn’t a standard, it’s a specification. …

Read this carefully. This means: “The goals of regular standards are to ensure protection targets were met, including those in the fields of consumer protection, safety and environmental protection. However, in case of a DIN SPEC some of the interest groups (e.g. trade unionists) can be neglected. That is why for a DIN SPEC, DIN explicitely excludes goals in the fields of consumer protection, safety and environmental protection. Consequently, DIN SPEC 91020 is not a safety standard!”

Interestingly, of all the relevant interest groups, the workers and their representatives had been excluded from working on this specification for the safety of workers. You can imagine that this makes it much easier to reach a consensus.

http://www.bad-gmbh.de/fileadmin/user_upload/BAD InForm 03/HTML/files/assets/basic-html/page13.html

… There were already various documents concerning OHM – one from B·A·D GmbH, one from TÜV Nord and OHSAS [sic!] 18001 – and they all had to be taken into consideration. …

As for e.g. communication, the definition of incidents, risk management, incident investigation and management responsibility, OHSAS 18001 seems to be more advanced. The focus on workplace health is much stronger than in case of the DIN SPEC 91020. This is specially important if it comes to mental workload issues: Instead of workers seeing the shrink, the shrink looks at their workplace. Thus, OHSAS 18001 doesn’t interfere too much with the lifestyle of employees.

Of course it took more time to develop OHSAS 18001, but as the relevant interested parties had been involved, acceptance is better than for a standard driven into the market mainly by employers. As a side effect of weak consensus building, comparing OHSAS 18001 and DIN SPEC 91020 can help to understand which parts of OHSAS 18001 do not go down well with employers.

Conclusion: Use OHSAS 18001 (or ILO-OSH etc.) for OH&S management. On top of that, DIN SPEC 91020 can be a nice add on. DIN SPEC 91020 alone does not meet the requirements of safety management systems.

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