Health & Safety at work | Nederlandse arbowetgeving in de Engelse taal

How does health & safety work in the Netherlands?

In the Netherlands, it is the employer and employees within a company who have primary responsibility for occupational health and safety policy. The government  (the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment) is allowing companies greater leeway to customise the way they seek to promote good working conditions. All rules derive from the Working Conditions Act (Arbowet), the Working Conditions Decree (Arbobesluit) or the Working Conditions Regulations (Arboregeling) (fulltext available ). The Inspectorate SZW  is responsible for enforcing the legislation.

Some typical elements in the Dutch occupational safety and health legislation:

The employer is obliged to contract an occupational safety and health (OSH) service like Cohesie or an occupational physician. The OSH-service or the occupational physician has to perform four tasks for the employer:

  1. Assisting employees who are not able to work because of illness;
  2. Reviewing the risk assessment and evaluation;
  3. Conduction the periodic occupational health examination;
  4. Conduction the pre-employment medical examination.

Especially task number 1 is important. Because in the Netherlands the social security system obliges the employer to pay at least 70% of the salary of the employee who has fallen ill. So, it’s very costly for an employer not to pay attention to the assistance of sick employees by an OSH-service or an occupational physician.

The OSH-service or the occupational physician in the Netherlands are external organisations/specialists mostly. The Dutch employers have to designate an internal employee with some knowledge of OSH as well. This person is called a designated worker or the prevention worker. This prevention worker has to assist the employer with the risk assessment and evaluation, and also assist the work council with OSH related matters.

Each company must employ at least one health and safety officer who is able to implement the measures that focus on health and safety within a company. The director is allowed to hold the position of health and safety officer at small companies that have 25 employees or less.
The health and safety officer supports the employer in the performance of policy pertaining to safe and healthy work and is closely involved in drawing up the Risk Assessment and Evaluation (‘RI&E’). Read more about the Risk Assesment at or on the website of the Online interactive Risk Assesment initiative.

Service providers for safety and health at work

An employer can make a choice from a broad range of service providers in the field of safety and health at work, like Cohesie. Inter alia for having an RI&E and the rehabilitation process checked, the employer may choose between hiring specialists from a certified working conditions service (this can also be an internal working conditions service) or engaging a certified working conditions expert not employed by a working conditions service (custom scheme: only if this has been arranged via the collective labour agreement or approved by the employee representation). A list of certified working conditions services can be found on the SBCA website. Working conditions services must employ the following disciplines: company doctor, occupational hygienist, higher safety specialist and a work and organisation expert. A company can also have itself assisted with advice concerning various other areas issued by advisors who are not certified. This not an obligation pursuant to the Working Conditions Act.

Here you’ll find more indepth & categorized information about typical Dutch rules for health & safety, including Reintegration obligations, Sick pay and Reporting employee sickness and recovery.

Want more information? Please contact Margreet van Egmond, Lead Consultant.