Operational Safety and its Intersections with Process Safety

From an occupational safety and health (OSH) perspective, operational safety requires action to protect employees’ safety and health when they use equipment in the course of their work.

Worker in a cellulose factory
© Uwe Völkner, Fotoagentur FOX

The legal basis for this in Germany is the Industrial Safety Ordinance (Betriebssicherheitsverordnung, BetrSichV), which governs the requirements that protect employees’ safety and health when using work equipment, as well as the operation of installations subject to monitoring.

Installations, machinery, equipment, and tools used for work are all categorised as work equipment.

These may be hand tools and equipment such as hammers or ladders, but also highly automated systems such as industrial robots, autonomous material-handling vehicles, or high-tech production plants like those found in the automotive industry. Installations subject to monitoring include, for example, elevators, steam boilers, pressure vessel systems, storage facilities for combustible liquids, and filling stations.

The requirements set out in the BetrSichV concerning installations subject to monitoring also relate to the protection of other persons who are not employees in danger areas. Since July 2021 the safety of such installations has been covered by separate legislation, the Act on Installations Subject to Monitoring (Gesetz über überwachungsbedürftige Anlagen, ÜAnlG). An ordinance to be enacted under the ÜAnlG will set out a list of the types of installation subject to mandatory inspection and specify in greater detail the requirements imposed on the listed installations.

The requirements of the BetrSichV are fleshed out by the Technical Rules for Operational Safety (Technische Regeln für Betriebssicherheit, TRBSs). The Committee on Work Equipment (Ausschuss für Betriebssicherheit, ABS) determines which passages in the Industrial Safety Ordinance need further explanation and draws up Technical Rules, which initially have to be examined and approved by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales, BMAS), before being published in the Joint Ministerial Gazette (Gemeinsames Ministerialblatt, GMBl.) and put into force. The Technical Rules are not legally binding, but as long as they are followed it may be presumed the requirements of the Industrial Safety Ordinance will be complied with (presumption of conformity). In addition, the ABS draws up Recommendations on Industrial Safety (Empfehlungen für Betriebssicherheit, EmpfBS) that discuss important topics and include statements about current issues in industrial safety about which consensus has been reached within the committee. The Technical Rules and the ABS’s recommendations are intended to give employers assistance when carrying out risk assessments and deciding on necessary OSH measures.

The Committee on Work Equipment (Ausschuss für Betriebssicherheit, ABS) was established on the basis of the Industrial Safety Ordinance to advise the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The ABS’s office is administered by Unit 2.4 of the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA) and its main task is the formulation of streamlined, risk-oriented rules that specify how the provisions of the Industrial Safety Ordinance are to be interpreted.

Process safety

Process safety is an important concern at industrial installations. In particular, it requires safe control systems for process facilities where hazardous chemical substances and biological agents are present in operational areas, including the emergency response measures taken when incidents occur. Process safety involves protecting employees and other persons in danger areas at installations, preserving material assets, and safeguarding the environment. Apart from the Industrial Safety Ordinance, its legal foundations also include the Hazardous Substances Ordinance (Gefahrstoffverordnung) and environmental legislation such as the Federal Immission Control Act (Bundes-Immissionsschutzgesetz, BImSchG) and the Major Accidents Ordinance (Störfall-Verordnung, StörfallV).

The Commission on Process Safety (Kommission für Anlagensicherheit, KAS) was established on the basis of Section 51a of the BImSchG to advise the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz, nukleare Sicherheit und Verbraucherschutz, BMUV). KAS’s duties include drawing up Technical Rules on Process Safety (Technische Regeln für Anlagensicherheit, TRASs) that reflect the state of the art of safety technology.

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