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Health and Safety Standards

Explore workplace health and safety laws in Belgium

Health and safety laws

Belgian health and safety laws are primarily based on the Act of 4 August 1996 on the Well-being of Workers in the Performance of Their Work (Well-Being Act) and the Codex on Well-Being at Work. These laws establish a comprehensive framework for employer responsibilities and employee rights in the workplace.

Employer Obligations

Under the Well-Being Act, employers have extensive obligations. They must identify workplace hazards and implement preventive measures. A hierarchy of controls is used, prioritizing elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Employers are also required to establish internal and/or external services for protection and prevention, staffed by qualified professionals. They must provide employees with comprehensive safety information and training relevant to their tasks. This must occur at hiring and periodically throughout employment. Employers are also required to develop emergency plans, including fire evacuation, first aid, and handling serious/immediate danger. They must also facilitate worker involvement in health and safety decision-making through committees for prevention and protection.

Employee Rights & Responsibilities

Belgian workers have the right to refuse tasks if they believe there is serious and immediate danger, with no repercussions. They have the right to be fully informed about workplace risks and the measures in place to protect them. Employees can participate in health and safety decision-making through health and safety committees. Workers also have the responsibility to follow safety procedures, use PPE, and report hazards.

Sectors & Special Provisions

Certain sectors or activities in Belgium have additional or more stringent health and safety provisions. For instance, detailed regulations cover workplace design, equipment use, fall protection, and more in the construction sector. Employers in the chemical sector must classify, label, and manage hazardous chemicals, providing safety data sheets. Young workers are restricted from certain hazardous tasks. Employers must conduct specific risk assessments and provide enhanced supervision for them.


The Directorate-General for Humanisation of Labour is responsible for enforcing health and safety laws. They have inspection powers and can issue warnings, fines, or orders to cease work in the case of violations. Belgian health and safety law is complex and continuously evolving. Employers should always consult the full legal texts and seek expert advice as needed.

Occupational health and safety

In the realm of occupational health and safety (OHS), employers follow a systematic approach to hazard identification and control. This is in line with the Well-being Act, which mandates the use of a hierarchy of controls from elimination to personal protective equipment (PPE). Risk assessments are also compulsory for certain activities such as manual handling and chemical use.

Risk Management

A Dynamic Risk Prevention Plan is a document that outlines an organization's overall OHS plan, policies, goals, and actions to be taken. This is mandated by the Well-Being Act. On a national level, Belgium operates with a multi-year Global Prevention Plan that sets OHS priorities and targets.

Workplace Design & Equipment

The Codex on Well-Being at Work provides detailed specifications for workspaces, machinery, electrical installations, and personal protective equipment. These specifications cover aspects such as ventilation, lighting, temperature, noise, ergonomics, safety devices, maintenance requirements, and standards to prevent electrical hazards.

Specific Hazards

Belgium has robust regulations to address specific hazards such as chemical safety, biological agents, psychosocial risks, and physical hazards. Employers are required to classify, label, and manage hazardous substances, and provide safety data sheets (SDS) according to the European Union's CLP Regulation. Work with biological agents is classified and requires specific control measures depending on risk level. Employers must also assess and address factors such as workload, work pressure, harassment, and violence, which contribute to work-related stress.

Occupational Health Services

Employers are required to establish an internal occupational health service or contract with an external one. The functions of these services include health surveillance of workers based on risk assessments, workplace assessments and advice on health hazards, first aid and emergency preparedness, and promotion of worker well-being.

Worker Involvement

In companies with 50+ employees, Committees for Prevention and Protection at Work (CPPW) are mandatory. These committees comprise employer and worker representatives, facilitating dialogue on OHS matters. Workers must also be informed of hazards and have the opportunity to provide input on OHS decisions.

Workplace inspection

Workplace inspections in Belgium are primarily conducted by the Social Laws Inspectorate, a part of the Federal Public Service (FPS) Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue. These inspections focus on compliance with the Well-Being Act and Codex, sector-specific regulations, high-risk workplaces, and responding to complaints.

Inspection Procedures

The inspection process typically involves a notice, an on-site examination, a report, and enforcement actions. Inspections can be unannounced, but employers may receive prior notification in certain cases. The on-site examination includes a tour of the workplace, examination of equipment and processes, review of documentation, and interviews with employers and workers. The inspector then issues a report outlining findings, noting any violations, and recommending corrective actions. Enforcement actions can range from warnings to fines or even work stoppage orders in cases of severe or repeated non-compliance. Employers have the right to appeal sanctions.

Inspection Frequency

Belgium operates a risk-based inspection model. The frequency of inspections varies based on company size and sector, risk assessment, and compliance history. Larger establishments and high-risk sectors are subject to more frequent monitoring. Workplaces with significant identified hazards warrant more frequent reviews. Companies with poor compliance records can expect increased inspection scrutiny.

Follow-up Actions

Employers must develop and implement plans to address deficiencies identified during inspections, within deadlines set by the inspectorate. Inspectors may return to confirm that corrective measures have been taken as stipulated. Cases of significant or willful non-compliance can lead to legal proceedings and financial penalties.

Additional Notes

Workers or their representatives have the right to accompany inspectors during a workplace inspection. Inspectors are bound to maintain confidentiality regarding sensitive information they obtain.

Workplace accidents

Workplace accidents are a serious matter and require immediate attention. Employers are legally obligated to report any workplace accident that results in at least one day of work incapacity (excluding the day of the accident) to their occupational accident insurance company. This report must be filed on a standard form provided by the insurance company, detailing the accident, the injured worker, and the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Investigation of Workplace Accidents

"Serious" workplace accidents, as defined in Belgian law, mandate a thorough investigation. This investigation is carried out by the Technical Inspection Department of the FPS Employment, Labour, and Social Dialogue, and the internal and/or external service for prevention and protection at work. The purpose of the investigation is to determine the causes of the accident, identify any shortcomings in safety measures, and make recommendations to prevent similar accidents in the future.

Compensation for Workplace Accidents

Workers injured in workplace accidents in Belgium are entitled to compensation. This typically covers medical expenses, lost wages due to temporary or permanent disability, and pain and suffering (under specific conditions). Workplace accident compensation in Belgium is primarily provided through a mandatory insurance scheme. Employers pay premiums to occupational accident insurance companies, and these companies are responsible for paying out compensation benefits to injured workers.

It's important to note that the specific procedures and requirements may vary slightly depending on the industry and the insurance company involved. Employers should always consult with their insurance companies and legal advisors to ensure full compliance with any regulations surrounding workplace accident reporting, investigation, and compensation.

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