When do audits interfere with the law?

Dienstag, 11. Februar 2014 - 20:31

BS OHSAS 18001 is a standard for Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) management systems. Conformity assessment bodies (CAB) conduct audits at the sites of clients who applied for a certification or who want to get re-certified. In Germany the CABs are accredited by the Deutsche Akkreditierungsstelle (DAkkS).

Accredited CABs in Germany for OHSAS 18001: http://www.dakks.de/en/content/directories-accredited-bodies. Leave all selections to “ALL” except “Certification for Managementsystem 2″, where you select “T64=Occupational Health and safety managementsystem: BS OHSAS 18001″.

Auditing is about assessing conformity. Strangely, in Germany it may occur that CABs support clients in acting against the law. When auditing the OH&S management system at your client’s site based on OHSAS 18001, the client may try

  • to take confidentiality as an excuse to hide findings concerning OH&S from the works council and
  • to exclude the works council from audits in order to prevent employee representatives from reporting OH&S issues to the auditor.

CABs should try to avoid this. Even best audit practices are not above the law!

Audits require confidentiality, but with regard to occupational health & safety issues, confidentiality does not allow clients of CABs to lock the work council out. CABs should not support clients in hiding information in a way which interferes with the duties of works council in Germany. Interfering with the legitimate work of the works council is a penal offence in Germany. Don’t issue certificates to clients, who act against the German Works Constitution (and against OHSAS 18001:2007

The following exerpt from the German Works Constitution tells you which information on OH&S issues the works council of your client’s sites are entitled to ask for and where and when the works councils are entitled to participate in the audit.

The German Works Constitution (excerpt for OHSAS 18001 Auditors)

Section 2 – Status of trade unions and employers’ associations
(1) The employer and the works council shall work together in a spirit of mutual trust having regard to the applicable collective agreements and in co-operation with the trade unions and employers’ associations represented in the establishment for the good of the employees and of the establishment.

Section 80 - General duties
(1) The works council shall have the following general duties:
1. to see that effect is given … safety regulations … for the benefit of the employees;

Section 87 – Right of co-determination
(1) The works council shall have a right of co-determination in the following matters in so far as they are not prescribed by legislation or collective agreement:
1. matters relating to the rules of operation of the establishment and the conduct of employees in the establishment;
7. arrangements for the prevention of accidents at work and occupational diseases and for the protection of health on the basis of legislation or safety regulations;
8. the form, structuring and administration of social services whose scope is limited to the establishment, company or combine;

Section 89 – Health and safety as well as environmental protection at work
(1) The works council shall endeavour to ensure that the provisions on safety and health at work and accident prevention as well as environmental protection are observed in the establishment. It shall support the competent occupational safety and health authorities, the statutory accident insurance institutions and other relevant bodies in their efforts to eliminate safety and health hazards by offering suggestions, advice and information
(2) The employer and the bodies referred to in the second sentence of subsection (1) shall be obliged to invite the works council or the members it delegates for that purpose to participate in all inspections and issues relating to safety and health at work or the prevention of accidents and inquiries into accidents. The employer shall also consult the works council concerning all inspections and issues relating to environmental protection in the company, and shall immediately inform it of any conditions imposed and instructions given by the competent bodies relating to safety and health at work, the prevention of accidents, or environmental protection in the establishment.
(3) For the purposes of this Act, environmental protection in the establishment comprises all personnel and organisational measures as well as all measures relating to the establishment’s buildings, rooms, technical equipment, working methods, working processes and work places that serve the protection of the environment.
(4) Members delegated by the works council shall take part in discussions between the employer and the safety delegates within the context of section 22 (2) of the Seventh Book of the Social Code.
(5) The works council shall receive from the employer the minutes of inquiries, inspections and discussions in respect of which subsections (2) and (4) provide for its participation.
(6) The employer shall supply the works council with a copy of the accident notification to be signed by the works council under section 193 (5) of the Seventh Book of the Social Code.

Section 119 – Offences against bodies established under this Act and their members
(1) The following offences shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year or a fine, or both:
2. Obstructing or interfering with the activities of the works council, the central works council, the combine works council, the youth and trainee delegation, the central youth and trainee delegation, the combine youth and trainee delegation, the ship’s committee, the fleet works council, the representative bodies of the employees referred to in section 3 (1), the conciliation committee, the arbitration body referred to in section 76 (8), the grievance committee referred to in section 86 or the finance committee,
(2) Proceedings concerning the offence shall be instituted only on application by the works council, the central works council, the combine works council, the ship’s committee, the fleet works council, the representative bodies of the employees referred to in section 3 (1), the electoral board, the employer or a trade union represented in the establishment. The application may be withdrawn.

   Co-determination 2013,
   Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs,
   Information, Publication and Editorial Office
   53107 Bonn, Germany

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