Dutch Working Conditions Decree
Amendments to the Working Conditions Decree
The general rules of the Working Conditions Act are elaborated upon in the Working Conditions Decree and the Working Conditions Regulation. The Working Conditions Decree contains concrete provisions which employers must follow, classified by subject.
The targets in the new Working Conditions Decree
Targets are legislative provisions that oblige employers to take measures to protect their employees. They could be general targets or targets aimed at specific occupational hazards. A target is concrete if it contains an unambiguous safety or health-related limit value. Examples are taking measures where there is a danger of falling 2.5 metres or more, or the rule limiting the noise level in the workplace to a maximum of 85 decibels.
If no concrete targets can be set, such as for psychosocial workload (PSW), process standards are used. These entail the employer working through a policy process to identify, assess and manage risks. Process standards can be developed by means of agenda stipulations; these are mandatory points for attention. An agenda stipulation of this kind specifies which elements must form part of the policy to be pursued by the employer. In the case of psychosocial workload, therefore, the employer is obliged to pursue a policy to prevent and limit this. In short: there must always be a target. This could be in the form of concrete limit values or a process standard. A target can be supplemented with mandatory points for attention: the agenda stipulation. In the annex to this brochure you will find a table of the changes made to the concrete targets.
Targets for substances
Businesses are themselves responsible for working safely with chemicals. By comparing levels of exposure to a chemical with a limit value, it is possible to assess whether the employee is running a health risk. In the past it was mainly the government that set the limit values. As from 1 January 2007, the business community is in the first instance responsible for setting its own limit values. The government will only set limit values for a small group of substances. This will apply to substances with a European limit value, carcinogenic substances and a few other substances for which the government sets limit values for a particular reason. There are currently a total of 170 such substances. These can be found in Annex XIII of the Working Conditions Regulation.
Also new is the fact that all limit values will now only have to be set at a level that is safe for health. It makes no difference whether the limit value is set by the government or by the business community.
The situation for most carcinogenic substances is different because any exposure, no matter how low, always carries a certain risk. With regard to carcinogenic substances, the Social and Economic Council (“SER”) will therefore be asked to advise what the lowest feasible limit value is. The government will then set the limit value based on this advice.
Reliably setting safe limit values and safe working methods can be complicated. For this reason the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment provides subsidies for employers and employees for developing systems to facilitate this.
As of the 27th of April of 2010 chapter 6 (Physical factors) has been increased with provisions regarding ‘artificial optical radiation’. This is the Dutch implementation of the EU-directive on artificial optical radiation (2006/25/EC).