Ever since the Dutch Working Conditions Act (Arbowet) was revised in 1994, health, safety and well-being in the workplace have received considerable attention. The act obliges all employers - thus including the University of Twente - to list and assess all the risks posed by the working conditions. Based on this list, plans need to be made to eliminate the identified risks.
Dutch law on working conditions is mainly stipulated in one act (Working Conditions Act), one decree (Working Conditions Decree) and one so-called 'ministerial' set of regulations (Working Conditions Regulations). We will first discuss the Working Conditions Act, which can be regarded as a framework for all the other working condition-related legislation and is therefore also referred to as a Framework Act (raamwet). The Working Conditions Act includes provisions on the following subjects, among others:
- the employer's general duties;
- the employee's general duties;
- consultation duties (e.g. with the employee representation);
- duties towards experts (e.g. the relationship to a Health and Safety service);
- Labour Inspectorate legal possibilities
More specific provisions have been laid down in the Working Conditions Decree, a so-called 'implementation decree'. The Working Conditions Decree has the status of order in council (Algemene Maatregel van Bestuur). The former ministerial regulations have been put together to form the Working Conditions Regulations.
Apart from the provisions as stipulated in the Working Conditions Act, the Working Conditions Decree and the Working Conditions Regulations, additional policy rules have been developed. These rules are indicative and show how the legal provisions can be interpreted.
The legislation on working conditions not only has consequences for the University of Twente in its role as employer, but also for you in your role as employee.
Working Conditions Act: employer's duties
The Working Conditions Act obliges employers to pursue a working conditions policy. When doing so, the following guiding principles apply:
- Customized health and safety: the measures to be taken need to be attuned to the risks for the employees' health, safety and well-being as present in the job;
- Collaboration: the employer and the employees have to work together on improving the working conditions;
- Structured approach: there has to be a structured approach, with the prevention of problems as one of the key themes.
Under the Directorate for HR's guidance, a structured approach to occupational health and safety management has been developed at the University of Twente.
At the UT, each department or unit has their own specific risks regarding health, safety and well-being. Therefore, an important part of the UT's approach to this health and safety management is shaped within the units. This is why the responsibility for health, safety and environment has been delegated to the faculty deans and the department directors. Each of the faculties or units also has their own Health, Safety and Environment Coordinator (AMC). The Executive Board, however, has the final responsibility for the health, safety and environment policy pursued.
Listing the most important risks forms the basis for the structured approach (occupational health and safety management system). To this end, all units have undergone a so-called hazard identification and risk assessment (RI&E). As a result of this RI&E, the necessary measures - both at unit and at university level - are planned and executed either on the short or on the long term.
Working Conditions Act: employee's duties
In order to create optimum working conditions, the involvement of employees is, of course, highly important. Therefore, consultations between the employer and the employees are crucial. But it is also important to note that employees, too, carry responsibility for safe working conditions and that they can be held liable at law for any negligence.
Roughly outlined, the employee's responsibilities are as follows:
- the duty to use machinery, hazardous substances, tools, etc. in a correct and therefore safe manner;
- the duty to cooperate in information and training sessions;
- the duty to deal with the company's safety precautions in the correct manner;
- the duty to use necessary (personal) protective equipment placed at the employee's disposal in the correct manner;
- the duty to immediately report unsafe and/or unhealthy working conditions to the manager.
In addition, you, as an employee, are of course fully entitled to be working under conditions that are as safe and healthy as possible, you have the right to obtain all necessary information, to be working with the necessary safety precautions in place and to discuss health and safety matters with your employer.