Health and safety at work
In Belgium, the employer must take measures to ensure the health and safety of employees at work.
Employers must have a dynamic risk management system to protect their staff: they are bound to run a risk analysis, as well as define prevention measures.
The employers have to analyse the risks a worker could be exposed to in order to define which prevention measures must be taken.
There are many risk analysis methods, and there is no obligation to use one in preference to another. Some of them are described in this publication from the FPS Employment, related to risk analysis (in French). One of them is the SOBANE strategy, which you can read more about in this general brochure from the FPS Employment website (in French).
Employers of small or medium-sized enterprises are expected to be able to identify the main risk factors by themselves, using the Déparis guide (in French), with the help of an external prevention advisor. The FPS for Employment provides a free, user-friendly IT tool - the ‘Online interactive Risk Assessment’ (OiRA), a web platform for creating sectoral risk assessment tools in any language - which can help small enterprises to carry out a risk analysis and define preventive actions.
Larger businesses must have an internal preventive and protective service (IPPS) (in French). In any case where that internal service lacks the necessary expertise, an external preventive and protective service (EPPS) (in French) must be enlisted.
In order to solve specific problems, employers may enlist external experts who do not belong to an external service.
For more information, please see:
- the Risk analysis page on the FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue website, and the Risk analysis page on the Belgian centre of competence for welfare at work website (BeSWIC) (in French)
- the SOBANE risk analysis strategy page on the Belgian centre of competence for welfare at work website (BeSWIC) (in French)
- the Prevention adviser page on the FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue website (in French)
Determining prevention measures
Once the risk analysis has been conducted, the employer defines the appropriate prevention measures in a global prevention plan (GPP), which encapsulates what must be taken to avoid the risks, remove their root cause, or reduce them.
Internal Prevention and Protective Service (IPPS)
All employers must set up an internal prevention and protective service (IPPS) (in French). In order to do so, they must have at least one internal prevention advisor (IPA).
Employers of businesses with fewer than 20 workers can take on this role by themselves.
If the internal service is unable to perform all of the duties assigned to it, the employer can enlist an External Service for Prevention and Protection at work (ESPP) (in French).
The annual report of the internal service: an obligation for the IPA
The annual report gathers all of the data on the safety and health of the workers in your business in the past year. The internal prevention advisor (IPA) is responsible for drawing up the report.
For more information, visit the Annual report page on the FPS Employment website (in French).
Learn more about this
If you want to learn more about the employer's duties regarding health and safety at work, please take a look at:
- the General principles for welfare policy page on the FPS Employment website
- the Council directive 89/391/EEC of 12 June 1989 on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work, on the EUR-Lex website
- the Belgian Centre of competence for welfare at work (BeSWIC) website (in French)
Diverse businesses or institutions employing employees at the same workplace, need to collaborate on joint measures for the welfare of their workers. If you want to read more about this, consult the Coordination at the workplace page from the FPS Employment website (in French).
Thsi also applies for the coordination between the employer of a business and external third parties (employers or self-employed persons) who work in said business. You can read more on the Working with third parties page on the FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue website (in French).
The implementation of temporary and mobile construction sites must be reported to the competent external service of the Directorate-General for Workplace Welfare Control. Specific rules apply to construction sites regarding welfare and safety.
For more information, please see the Temporary or mobile construction site page on the FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue website (in French).
In Begium, employers have to take additional measures to ensure the safety of young workers:
- Risk analysis: employers must analyse the risks to the safety and well-being of young people
- Prohibition of dangerous work: young people are not allowed to carry out certain tasks, such as ones that expose them to toxic agents or to ionising radiation, or to elevated risk factors, etc.
- Introduction and supervision
- Specific health surveillance of young people at the workplace
For a better understanding of which workers are categorised as young workers, or for more information about the specific measures which apply to them, please see the young workers page on the FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue website (in French).
In case of accidents at work
All Belgian employers are bound to insure their paid employees for the risk of accidents at work by subscribing to a policy with an insurance company authorised for this purpose.
Employees must report every accident they have at work, or on the way to or from work, to their employer. The employer is obliged to report the accident to its insurance company within eight days.
The insurance company will then decide whether to recognise the accident as an accident at work.
If it refuses to do so, Fedris can be asked to investigate its decision.
In principle, all private-sector employers are automatically insured for occupational diseases. Public authorities generally insure their employees for occupational diseases themselves.
Prevention advisors/occupational physicians are legally required to inform Fedris and the FPS Employment if they find that an employee has a disease which they suspect is work-related.
Private-sector employees can claim compensation from Fedris by completing Form 501N (in French) available on the Fedris website and asking their physician to complete Form 503N (in French) available on the Fedris website. Once Fedris has received both forms and any supporting medical documents, it can begin an investigation.
Serious or very serious accidents at work
The term ‘serious accident at work’ is defined as an accident in the workplace that is serious enough to require a specific, in-depth investigation to identify the preventive measures to be taken to avoid a repeat occurrence.
In practice, the procedure to be followed for serious accidents at work involves three steps:
- the serious accident is investigated immediately by the competent preventive body or bodies;
- protective measures are taken to avoid an immediate repetition;
- a detailed accident report is submitted to the Labour Inspectorate for Well-Being at Work within ten days of the accident.
Find more information on the Serious accident procedure page on the FPS Employment website (in French).
The employer of a person who has had a very serious accident at work must report it immediately to the official responsible for monitoring such accidents by using of the following phone numbers:
- in Dutch: +32 (0)2 235 53 00
- in French: +32 (0)2 235 55 44
Certain occupational accidents must also be reported to other authorities:
- Seveso companies: the Directorate for the Prevention of Serious Accidents must be notified. Contact details can be found on the FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue website, in the section about Chemical Risk Control (in French);
- Ionising radiation: contact the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (in French);
- Serious incidents or accidents involving lifts or elevators: contact the FPS Economy, Central Inquiry Desk (in French);
- Explosives: contact the local police and the public prosecutor (in French);
- Electrical accidents: contact the FPS Economy, DG for Energy, Infrastructure and Inspections (in French).
In Belgium, the Federal Public Service (FPS) for Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue is the competent national authority for health and safety at work. It is responsible for preparing, promoting and implementing the policy for well-being at work.
The Labour Inspectorate – Directorate General for Well-Being at Work of the FPS Employment oversees compliance with that policy by playing an advisory, preventive and repressive role.
The Federal Agency for Occupational Risks (Fedris) is the centre of expertise for occupational risks, particularly those related to accidents at work and occupational diseases.
Employees from the following sectors can contact Fedris:
- accidents at work: the private sector and, to a lesser extent, the public sector
- occupational diseases: the private sector and local and provincial public authorities
If you are self-employed, you can contact The National Institute for the Social Security of the Self-employed (INASTI) (in French).
When an occupational risk is identified, a complaint can be submitted to the competent regional inspectorate for well-being at work. You can find the contact details, opening hours and the geographical area covered by each of these regional inspectorates page on the FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue website (in French).
Contact first the internal or external prevention and protection service and only then the Regional Directorate for Workplace Welfare Control (in French) competent for the location of the employer's activity.
Federal Public Service for Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue
Federal Agency for Occupational Risks (Fedris)
- Avenue de l'Astronomie, 1 - 1210 Brussels
- Website: www.fedris.be