KANBrief 3/11

The latest developments in standards governing services

Besides pure product standardization, standardization of services is becoming increasingly important, and is therefore also a highly topical issue for occupational safety and health. Above all, it is important that the service standards do not conflict with statutory OSH provisions. Standards are not a suitable instrument for regulating the safety and health of the persons delivering the service.

Around 70% of the total added value generated in the EU is currently produced in the service sector. Since services are increasingly provided across national borders, the need for corresponding European standards is also increasing. The European Commission hopes that greater standardization activity will have positive effects in liberalizing the trade in services and eliminating barriers to trade. The draft regulation governing European standardization therefore makes provision for the European Commission to be able to use mandates in the future to create standards governing services.

The EU Services Directive, 2006/123/EC, defines services as a self-employed economic activity, normally provided for remuneration. This open-ended formulation reveals the breadth of topics, a fact also reflected in the topics of current standardization projects: conditions for the rental of equipment, tools and accessories for construction, gardening and DIY use; funeral services; outsourcing; human resource management; security services; and many more.

Standardization has its limits

KAN adopts the position that service standards are advantageous where they may improve the quality of services, for example with regard to the safety of consumers.

Conflicts may however arise: the description of a service may for example also make reference to the persons delivering it. As a result, some service standards contain requirements concerning the safety of the workers. Such requirements include the equipping of workplaces with secondary safety technology, such as emergency exits for workers; the definition of occupational exposure limits; organization of the health and safety of workers at work; the provision of occupational safety and health instruction; occupational medical check-ups; and the use of personal protective equipment. As a matter of principle, however, these areas do not fall within the intended scope of standardization: instead, the relevant national OSH regulations governing worker safety apply in such cases, in accordance with Article 153 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

The frequent difficulties in practice in distinguishing between these aspects is illustrated by the example of the CEN Workshop Agreement (CWA) governing the rental of equipment (CWA 16308, Framework for consumer rental conditions). From an OSH perspective, there is no reason why a standards document should not govern the contractual agreement between the consumer and a rental company. Since, however, the distinction between private and commercial use is blurred for example in the case of the rental of construction machinery, the possibility of the CWA also affecting aspects of the health and safety of workers at work cannot be ruled out. In this case however, the Ordinance on industrial safety and health is the applicable regulation in Germany for equipment rental for commercial customers. OSH representatives have been successful in preventing OSH aspects already governed in binding form in other legislation from being addressed within the CWA.

The OSH representatives have also lobbied for the "CEN guide to preparing service standards" (see also KANBrief 1/10) to be kept free of provisions concerning the health and safety of workers at work. CEN BT/WG 163 is currently revising the guide, and for this purpose has requested the support of SABOHS, the European CEN strategic advisory body for occupational health and safety.

KAN monitors standardization activity and formulates comments based upon its fundamental position on the standardization of services. Staff at the KAN Secretariat are active in the Coordination Office for Services Standardization (KDL) and on other committees of DIN, the German Institute for Standardization, and actively observe European developments (Current information on service standards: KDL newsletter (in German) and CEN). Early and constructive participation in standardization activity is essential in order for OSH interests to be represented in this growing area of standardization, and unfavourable developments prevented.

Bettina Palka