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Progress for Safety and Health at Work

In May 2020, the German Bundestag passed the 7th Amending Act to the German Welfare Code, Book IV (Sozialgesetzbuch IV; SGB IV). The Act also contains amendments to the Social Welfare Code (SGB) Book VII that incorporate further developments into the law regarding occupational diseases. Professional associations and accident insurance funds welcome these changes, which are largely based on proposals by the self-administration of the accident insurance institutions.

The new provisions of the 7th Amending Act to SGB IV include the elimination of the obligation to cease and desist, simplification of the measures for the investigation of causes and the promotion of research into occupational diseases. The changes will enter into effect on 1 January 2021. Stefan Hussy, Managing Director of the German Statutory Accident Insurance (DGUV), Berlin/Germany, the umbrella organisation of the employers’ liability insurance associations and accident insurance funds, declared in this context: “The law is a major, yet balanced step towards further development of the law on occupational diseases. Legislators have in many instances incorporated proposals that the representatives of employers and insured persons in the self-administration of the statutory accident insurance had prepared. We also regard the law as acknowledgement of the ability of the self-administration to find solutions for the people it represents.”

The employers’ liability insurance associations and accident insurance funds hope that the amendments of the law will lead to further progress in prevention. “The law gives accident insurance companies more opportunities to bundle data on stress at work and to increase their knowledge of the causes of occupational diseases,” said Edlyn Höller, Deputy Managing Director of the DGUV. “This knowledge helps us in regard to both occupational health and safety and in the question of the recognition of occupational diseases because it provides to us a foundation for more precise determination of the stresses to which insured persons who have become ill were exposed at work.”

The law has revoked the obligation to cease and desist from the occupational activities that was previously a prerequisite for the recognition of an occupational disease. Höller explained: “The obligation to cease and desist is no longer necessary. For some time now, we have had procedures in place that allow insured persons with a skin disease, e. g., to continue to do their jobs. The law strengthens these procedures, the so-called individual prevention, and contributes to making the working world a healthier place.”

Author: Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung (DGUV), Berlin