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The current legal situation

The EC Guidelines on protection at work (flag courtesy of europa.eu.int)
The EC guidelines on protection at work became national law with the decree of 4th December 1996. This decree contains, among other things:-

the decree concerning safety and protection of health for manual manipulation of payloads whilst at work (payload manipulation decree - payload manipulation V).

Accordingly, the employer is obliged either to take suitable measures or to use industrial resources - in particular mechanical equipment - to avoid or reduce as far as possible, manual manipulation of payloads which constitute a danger to health and safety of those employed; especially to the spinal column's lumbar region (paragraph 2, payload manipulation V).
Futhercome, the Protection at Work Act is to be applied in this respect.

The Protection at Work Act specifies that the employer must notify danager in the work-place and must assess whether measures are necessary to ensure working safety (paragraph ArbSchG). A new feature is the employer's duty of documentation, which came into force on 21st August, 1997. The employer must provide requisite documents, regarding each type of work and the number of those employed in it; in order to show both the result of such assessment of danger and the measures established by him for working protection, as well as the result of his checking procedures (paragraph 6 ArbSchG).

Assessment of danger is difficult in commercial practice, since small and medium-sized firms do not possess the facilities necessary to make such assessment, such as specialist personnel and scientific methods.

The problematic nature of this situation has been recognized. The Federal Institute for Protection at Work and Industrial Medicine has developed a method, in coordination with industrial supervisory boards and industry in general, which will enable small and medium-sized firms to undretake the requisite assessment, without entailing extensive expenditure.

The method is based on four guidelines to be used in making assessments:-

1. The period during which the payload is moved;

2. the payload's weight;

3. the phsical posture and positioning of the keyboard;

4. the operational conditions.

Within these guidelines, lesser, renewable classes have been set up, corresponding to the work under consideration and by which it can rated using a system of points: from this, the four risky areas of work can be assessed by evaluating the total points value. Generally speaking, the higher a points value is, the more urgent is the need for introducing technical and / or organizational configuration measures. The guidelines method is set out in a work-sheet (see appendix), which can be used during commercial operations, both for assessment and documentation. The completed work-sheet is recognized by the supervisory authorities as documentation defined by paragraph 6 ArbSchG. Only about 10 to 15 minutes needs to be expended for each assessment. Work-place investigations have shown that half of all manipulation takes place under ergonomic circumstances less than the ergonomic optimum, i.e., assessed as a postural rating of 4 or 8; with the main area of strain lying around 4. The payload weight predominantly lay between 10 and 20 kg. A third of manipulation is performed under poor, ergonomic operational conditions (operational rating 1). On the basis of the investigation, the upper rating limit of point values lies around 70 points.

Amoung other considerations, any requisite measure intended should be coordinated with the relevant guideline, applying to a given high points value. Experimental trials of the guidelines method in practice, has emphasised that it is comparable in results with other, more expensive processes. Moreover, 60% of the commercial doctors surveyed about this method, reported that it fully reflects their experience in practice. The work-sheet can from now on be utilized in firms for assessment of operational requirements, in respect of lifting and carrying.

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