Germany: model of good governance for workers’ health

Health hazards and risks in the working environment kill more than 300 000 workers in the WHO European Region every year. Less than 10% of workers in the southern and eastern parts of the Region have access to occupational health services, in contrast to more than 90% in the northern and western parts.

WHO/Europe has produced a country profile of the occupational health system in Germany to provide policy-makers and advisers across the Region with lessons from this system, and up-to-date guidance on good practice in the governance of workers’ health. It will help Member States develop more effective and efficient occupational health systems, following the whole-of-government and health-in-all-policies approaches: key principles in Health 2020, the European policy on health and well-being.

Occupational health in Germany

Since the 1990s, the fatality rate for work-related accidents in Germany has been below the European Union average. In 2008, 60 624 suspected cases of occupational disease were reported, for 23 028 of which an occupational cause was confirmed. There were 2391 deaths due to occupational diseases, and 4312 new applications for occupational-disease pensions were considered.

The most cases of occupational disease were found in the metal industry, followed by the construction sector. The high number of deaths from occupational diseases predominantly results from exposure to asbestos.

Country profile series

This new country profile provides an overall picture of the current status of the governance of workers’ health in Germany, focusing on the national policy framework, priorities for action, objectives and targets, mechanisms for implementation, and human and financial resources for protecting and promoting workers’ health.

Developed by WHO/Europe with WHO collaborating centres and other experts, this profile is part of a series highlighting selected countries’ occupational health systems as models of good governance for workers’ health.

About the German occupational safety and health system

The German system, based on statutory accident insurance, is over a century old. It provides a model of good governance based on including health in all policies, effectively financing and delivering comprehensive occupational health services in collaboration with the national labour inspection authorities and associations of social partners.