Welcome to our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ page. Below are a few answers to frequently asked questions along with brief explanations of the website, the Netherlands Focal Point and EU-OSHA.
Questions concerning the NL-FOP
EU-OSHA is the European Union’s agency that provides information on occupational safety and health. The work contributes to the European Commission’s strategic framework for occupational safety and health (OSH) for the period 2014-2020 and to other relevant EU strategies and programmes, such as Europe 2020. This brief video tells you what EU-OSHA does. You can follow this link to the website.
The Netherlands Focal Point (NL-FOP) represents the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) in the Netherlands. NL-FOP actively contributes to the further development of occupational safety and health in the Netherlands and in Europe by importing and exporting knowledge, instruments and best practices.
Unfortunately, the Netherlands Focal Point is unable to provide advice on specific work situations. We can, however, refer you to other organisations that can assist you. More information on parties that are involved in promoting occupational safety and health can be found under the heading ‘Occupational Safety and Health in the Netherlands’.
- Disseminating information. On the one hand making European information accessible in the Netherlands and on the other hand making Dutch information accessible to other Member States.
- Organising and promoting the biennial European campaign ‘a healthy workplace’ in the Netherlands.
- Managing the National Focal Point network consisting of the social partners and various knowledge institutes and organisations.
- Providing Dutch input to the development of the EU-OSHA products.
No, that is not possible; the Netherlands Focal Point does not have the resources available to contribute financially to external projects.
Tripartism is a management form in which government, employees and employers exercise joint decision-making. In the Netherlands Focal Point, this is interpreted in the form of a steering group. This group, consisting of delegates from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, MKB Nederland and the FNV, convenes at least four times a year. It is during these steering group meetings that decision-making takes place on the performance of core tasks and on the Netherlands Focal Point’s strategy.
Questions concerning the laws and regulations of the Netherlands
Many of the rules that pertain to safety and health are set out in the Working Conditions Act, the Working Conditions Decree and the Working Conditions Regulations. In the Netherlands, the terms ‘safety and health’ are also indicated by the terms ‘prevention’ or ‘sustainable employability’.
Many of the rules in the working conditions legislation are derived from European directives, such as the EEC Safety and Health at Work Framework Directive (89/391/EEC).
The Working Conditions Act includes many rules on how to implement a sound occupational safety and health policy. For example, a company must conduct a Risk Inventory and Evaluation (RI&E) and must draw up an Action Plan, the company must provide information on how to work in safe and healthy conditions and a basic contract must be in place with a health and safety service or an occupational physician. The Working Conditions Act also includes rules to which the employees and inspectors of the Labour Inspectorate must adhere. In fact, the Working Conditions Act includes general rules that apply to all companies.
Specific rules for working at heights in the construction sector or with cranes for example, are not included in the Working Conditions Act, but in the Working Conditions Decree and in the Working Conditions Regulations. In other words: the Working Conditions Decree and the Working Conditions Regulations include more detailed rules on specific occupational safety and health risks. Some of the provisions of the working conditions legislation in the Netherlands have been formulated in a rather general way and, consequently, companies don’t always know exactly how to meet the general requirement(s). In many cases, occupational health and safety catalogues are available that indicate how to meet these statutory obligations (also refer to the question: what are occupational health and safety catalogues?). Sometimes, one of the Dutch Standardisation Institute’s standards (NEN) is also used, e.g. the NEN 1010 standard is always used when working with low-voltage systems.
Rules on working hours and rest times are not included in the working conditions legislation, but in the Working Hours Act.
Many of the rules in the working conditions legislation have been formulated in a rather general way. Sometimes, it can be hard to tell exactly how to comply with the rules. SMEs, in particular, find it hard to comply with requirements that are not clearly defined. This is why the Netherlands has occupational health and safety catalogues for many sectors. These catalogues contain directions and examples of occupational safety and health. The content may include checklists, best practices, tips and tricks, films, etc. In essence, these occupational health and safety catalogues are a type of book/database offering solutions related to safety and health in a particular sector.
These occupational health and safety catalogues are compiled by employer and employee organisations (unions) in a specific sector. For example, occupational health and safety catalogues have been compiled for the primary education sector, the performing arts sector, the construction industry and the waste sector. The occupational health and safety catalogues are useful for small(er) companies because small(er) companies tend not to have sufficient in-house expertise in relation to occupational safety and health.
These catalogues are also presented to the Netherlands Labour Authority (NLA) for assessment and once the NLA has given its approval the companies in the relevant sector may freely apply the solutions from the approved catalogue. They will then know that they are complying with the working conditions legislation.
Unfortunately, the occupational health and safety catalogues have not been translated into English. Therefore, it might be useful to approach the relevant sector organisation in the Netherlands with a request for more detailed information.
If you own a business in the Netherlands, you are obliged to conduct a Risk Inventory and Evaluation (RI&E) (even if you only employ a few workers). The RI&E contains a description of all the (potential) risks at the company. These risks must also be evaluated, i.e. what is and is not considered to be a serious risk?
The RI&E also includes a description of the measures that must be taken to prevent or limit the relevant risk. The RI&E must be updated when changes which may create new or different risks have taken place at the company. You don’t have to implement all improvement measures simultaneously. However, as a company, you must draw up an Action Plan indicating precisely what you are going to do, who will be doing what, and when the measure was introduced. The RI&E and Action Plan must be sent to a certified health and safety service or a certified health and safety expert for assessment. Although adopting the recommendations of the health and safety service/health and safety expert is recommended, it is not mandatory. The company must then present the RI&E and the Action Plan to its Works Council for approval. Once this permission has been granted, the company can proceed to implement the Action Plan.
The RI&E and Action Plan are considered to be the foundation for a sound occupational safety and health policy. Failure, on your company’s part, to have a RI&E and an Action Plan will result in a fine from the Netherlands Labour Authority.
Sector-specific RI&E instruments have been created for many of the sectors in the Netherlands, and you can use these instruments to conduct your own RI&E. Unfortunately, these sector-specific RI&E instruments are not available in English.
Every company in the Netherlands must appoint a so-called Prevention Officer. This person must be an employee of the relevant company. The company is only allowed to appoint an external party as its Prevention Officer when it truly cannot appoint someone in-house. The Prevention Officer must support management in implementing the obligations stemming from the working conditions legislation. The Prevention Officer is charged with the following tasks according to the law:
- Assisting in conducting the RI&E;
- Assisting in implementing measures from the Action Plan;
- Collaborating with and advising the WC;
- Collaborating with and advising the health and safety service or the occupational physician.
Large companies often already have health and safety experts working for them, e.g. safety experts (with higher education) and these experts can also be appointed as Prevention Officers. For small(er) companies, the Prevention Officer is often the internal contact point or coordinator for issues relating to safety and health.
The Works Council has a right of consent when a (new) Prevention Officer must be appointed. The Council must consent to the person who is appointed as Prevention Officer and to the Prevention Officer’s position in the organisation.
In-House Emergency Response Officers (Dutch: BHV’ers) are company employees who can act fast in the event of an emergency in or around the company. In-House Emergency Response Officers are always internal employees and not people from outside the company. The first few minutes of an emergency are the most crucial; the In-House Emergency Response Officer’s ability to act fast can prevent fires from spreading or injuries from escalating.
The In-House Emergency Response Officer’s statutory tasks include:
- Providing first aid in emergencies;
- Limiting and fighting fires;
- Limiting the consequences of accidents;
- Alerting and evacuating guests and employees in emergency situations.
Of course, it is also pertinent that In-House Emergency Response Officers contact the professional emergency service providers as soon as possible. Formal, specific training requirements are not in place for In-House Emergency Response Officers, but the In-House Emergency Response Officer’s training should be such that he/she can perform his/her tasks ‘properly’. The risks that are inherent to your company will have to be taken into account. The RI&E also forms the foundation for the proper interpretation of in-house emergency services. The number of In-House Emergency Response Officers in a company is not stipulated by law, but it is logical to have several appointed, to account for people who are on holidays or off sick.
Organisations with fifty employees or more are obliged to instate a Works Council (WC). The company’s employees may choose Council members and may also nominate (themselves as) candidates. The Works Councils Act sets out the rules that pertain to works councils.
One of the Works Council’s tasks is to promote compliance with the (statutory) requirements relating to working conditions and working hours. The Works Council has several powers in this respect. The Works Council’s main power is the so-called right of consent. The Works Council’s consent is required when the employer wants to formulate, change or abolish arrangements relating to working conditions or working hours. Such consent is required for the following arrangements that pertain to working conditions:
- the way the company arranges in-house emergency response services;
- who the Prevention Officer will be and where this person will work in the organisation;
- the RI&E and the Action Plan;
- the terms and conditions that the employer wants to include in the basic contract with the health and safety service or the occupational physician;
- the way the information, instruction, and supervision pertaining to working conditions are organised.
Companies with fewer than 50 employees may instate an employee representative body. Naturally, the Works Council members consult with the employer regarding working conditions, but they also work with the company’s Prevention Officer(s).
In the Netherlands, the unions play an important part in the establishment of the Collective Labour Agreement (CLA). A CLA can be established at company level or at sector or branch level. Many CLAs also include arrangements on working conditions, such as personal protective equipment and periodic occupational health medical examinations.
Yes, every company must conclude a basic contract with a certified health and safety service or an official registered occupational physician. This also applies to companies that only have 1 employee.
The requirements for this basic contract were tightened as of 1 July 2017. The employer must, in any event, include the following five supporting tasks in the basic contract with the health and safety service or the occupational physician:
- Assessment of the RI&E and the Action Plan;
- The periodic occupational health medical examination (Periodiek Arbeidsgezondheidskundig Onderzoek, PAGO);
- The pre-employment medical examination, if permitted;
- The absenteeism/rehabilitation process;
- The working conditions consultation hour.
In addition, the employer must make it possible, via the basic contract, for the health and safety service or the occupational physician to visit the employer’s workplace and make recommendations regarding preventative measures.
If the employer does not have a contract with the health and safety service or occupational physician or the contract is inadequate, the Netherlands Labour Authority may impose a fine or issue a compliance order. The Works Council or employee representative body has a right of consent in this obligation to work with a health and safety service or an occupational physician.
In practice, the health and safety service and the occupational physician only take on an important role in the case of (long-term) absenteeism/rehabilitation and reintegration of employees. However, the change in legislation gives rise to the expectation that health and safety services and occupational physicians will be able to focus more on prevention.
The Netherlands Labour Authority (NLA) is charged with monitoring compliance and enforcing legislation pertaining to working conditions and working hours. The inspectors may show up at a company announced or unannounced to carry out an inspection. In many cases, an inspection like this will cause a shift in the way that certain aspects related to working conditions are arranged. This usually happens pursuant to a report/letter drawn up by the inspector after the inspection. The NLA will return to the company after a certain period, to see if it has followed up on the arrangements. If this is not the case, the inspector may issue a so-called ‘compliance order’. This order indicates how the company must comply with the legal requirement and the time frame for compliance.
The NLA may also impose an administrative fine if a company fails to live up to certain statutory rules. This will happen, for instance, when a company fails to report a serious accident to the NLA.
In other words, companies must inform the NLA of a serious or fatal accident by telephone. The inspector will then investigate the accident and an official report may be drawn up. This official report may then be used to initiate criminal proceedings in which the employer might have to answer to the criminal judge.
The zzp’er is a self-employed individual without employees. This means the zzp’er is not an employer. The Dutch Working Conditions Act does not apply to self-employed individuals. However, in certain situations, the self-employed individual must comply with specific legal requirements. These legal requirements are included in Article 9.5. of the Working Conditions Decree. These legal requirements mostly pertain to serious risks, such as:
- working at heights;
- working with carcinogenic substances;
- exposure to noise;
- working on scaffolding.
The Netherlands Labour Authority may still impose an administrative fine if the self-employed individual does not comply with these legal requirements.
The working conditions legislation does not apply to companies who issue a contract to another company. In other words, when company A issues a contract to company B, by which company B makes or completes something, company A (the client) will not be responsible for the way company B (the contractor) complies/fails to comply with the Working Conditions Act. Therefore, the Working Conditions Act does not place any obligations on clients, except in the case of clients who contract out construction work.
In this situation, the rules set out in Directive 92/57/EEC – temporary or mobile construction sites, and adopted in the Dutch Working Conditions Decree (chapter 2, section 5), will apply. The main obligations of the client that contracts out construction work, are:
- Notifying the Netherlands Labour Authority of the structure to be built (in specific cases – Article 2.27 of the Working Conditions Decree);
- Appointing a Health and Safety Coordinator for the design phase (Article 2.29 and 2.30 of the Working Conditions Decree);
- Drawing up a Health and Safety Plan in the design phase (Article 2.28 of the Working Conditions Decree);
- Compiling a Health and Safety File (Article 2.30 under c. of the Working Conditions Act).
In the Netherlands, the employer continues to pay wages to employees who fall sick. This continued payment of wages lasts a maximum of two years. An employee who is ill and not working is entitled to 70% of the last wage earned in his/her first year of illness. The employer and employee are obliged, with the assistance of an occupational physician, to draw up an Action Plan to achieve an effective and fast reintegration process. The employer and the sick employee will discuss this plan every six weeks.
When the two years are nearly over, the Employee Insurance Schemes Implementing Body (Dutch: UWV) will evaluate whether the employer and/or the sick employee have cooperated sufficiently in the reintegration process. If the employer did not cooperate or failed to cooperate sufficiently, the employer will be obliged to continue to pay wages for longer; if the employee did not cooperate or failed to cooperate sufficiently, his/her benefits may be lowered as a result.
When the two years of continued payment of wages are over, the Employee Insurance Schemes Implementing Body will determine whether the sick employee is eligible for a disability benefit.
The employee may not be dismissed in the period that he/she receives continued payment of wages. The continued payment of wages during a period of illness can be a very costly matter to small employers, which is why insurance coverage is available to cover this risk.
The occupational physician or (the occupational physician affiliated with) the health and safety service must oversee the absenteeism/rehabilitation process during the two years in which the sick employee continues to receive wages.