Company visits and policy advice: what will change in 2022?

On 23 August, a Royal Decree was issued to modify the objective, content and modality of the company visit. The new rules will take effect on 1 January 2022. What will be changing exactly? And what are the implications for your organisation? Karine Eerdekens, risk management director at Mensura, discusses these changes.

The legislation distinguishes between companies in group D/C- and A/B/C+ for company visits. The reason for the distinction: a company in group A/B/C+ has a trained prevention advisor in house, a group D/C- company does not. "Both company groups have different needs", according to Karine Eerdekens. “External services will now be better equipped to anticipate this difference. Plus, there is now a clear framework. This was not the case in the past and external services used to conduct their company visits based on their own interpretation. Which tended to clash with the expectations of the Inspectorate. The improved clarity will benefit all stakeholders.”

What will change for D/C- companies?

  • + Information requirement

Within two months of joining, the external service (EOHS) must inform the employer about the hazards and risks associated with their sector and provide information about potential preventive measures, resources and tools. This allows the employer to start working on their well-being policy at a very early stage. In addition, the EOHS informs the employer what assignments the EOHS is expected to perform and how to consult the electronic inventory of the executed assignments.

Karine Eerdekens: “Mensura was already doing this in the past. In view of the new legislation, we are looking at how to get this information to our clients in an even more targeted way to help them get on with it.”

  • + The introduction of an exploratory company visit

Every new employer will get an exploratory company visit from their external service. This is an important moment in the collaboration between the employer and the EOHS. Both organisations work together to identify hazards in the workplace within all domains of well-being, pinpointing which of these hazards are associated with (major) risks to the well-being of the employees.

The five top-priority risks are listed and the employer receives concrete advice on how to eliminate them. Karine Eerdekens: "An important legislative change that allows the employer to focus on five priorities rather than addressing everything at the same time". In addition, this visit also serves to establish what hazards may pose health risks. Based on this analysis, it is decided which employees are required to attend periodic medical examinations.

Karine Eerdekens: “The goal of this visit is to give both the EOHS and the employer insight into the hazards and risks at the workplace, help the employer prioritise and propose practical measures for the employer to implement.”

For companies in price group 1 and 2 (sectors associated with less risk), the exploratory visit must take place within 12 months of joining, for companies in price group3, 4 and 5 it must be conducted within 6 months. “Mensura always aims to realise this within 3 months of the actual start-up so that you, the customer, can get on with it quickly.”

  • + The periodic company visit

During the periodic company visit, the EOHS assesses the development of the five high-priority risks identified in the last visit, assesses whether any new hazards have emerged and redefines five high-priority risks. Karine Eerdekens clarifies: “In these assessments, company visitors take into account any accidents, anonymous results of medical examinations or results of other EOHS interventions. Analyses performed by the employer themselves and all other information pertaining to the well-being of employees serve as input as well.”

Both the exploratory visit and the periodic visit include a physical workplace visit in order to test the collected information against the reality on the floor.

  • Policy advice

The new provision also draws a link with the policy advice introduced in 2016. All information (information submitted within 2 months, information from the exploratory visit, periodic visits and all other interventions) must be incorporated in the policy advice. As a result, the policy advice becomes the company's well-being file where the evolution of well-being at work can be tracked at all times. Karine Eerdekens explains: “In order to meet the requirement of actively participating in the risk analysis, an EOHS must meet the information requirement, conduct the exploratory visit and periodic visits as well as supplement the policy advice with new insights and propose practical measures to the employer. For the employer, the company file constitutes the foundation of their general prevention plan and annual action plan.”

What will change for A/B/C+ companies?

  • Exploratory company visit

The EOHS is required to conduct an exploratory visit for these newly joined companies as well. When it comes to these types of organisations, the internal service and the employer are expected to give the EOHS insight into the hazards and risks on the floor based on their own risk analysis. Combined with the physical rounds, this should allow the EOHS to organise health supervision for each client. During this visit, the EOHS prevention advisor will recommend what tasks and assignments to entrust to the EOHS. These agreements are recorded in the identification document.

  • + Periodic company visit

The frequency of periodic company visits for all A/B/C+ clients is set to once every 24 months. The reasoning is that regular workplace visits is, first and foremost, the task of the internal service. Substantively, this visit focuses on the same subjects as the exploratory visit: to give the EOHS insight into the (changed) risks in order to adjust health supervision where necessary, a physical workplace visit and alignment of the task distribution between the internal and external service with an updated identification document, if applicable.

Does the reduced frequency of the periodic company visits imply that you will now only see your occupational physician or other EOHS prevention advisors just once every two years? Karine Eerdekens: “No, of course not. But it does mean that the periodic visit will be conducted with this content and frequency, leaving more time for other types of visits: inspection of altered workstations, workplace visits in view of re-integration of long-term absentees, visits in view of specific assignments, such as conducting measurements, specific risk analyses, etc. By focusing on the risks as determined by the internal service every two years – supplemented with insights from EOHS prevention advisors – health supervision can be even better aligned with the actual and fluctuating risks than in the past.”

Companies with multiple branches

What about companies with multiple branches? They are currently subject to a frequency of the periodic visit calculated based on the price group, risk type and the number of employees working at that specific branch. This involves large retail chains where each store is a copy of the next as well as various sports centres of large local authorities and such. The same bottlenecks tend to occur at each location, which renders frequent visits to all branches ineffective. The new RD introduces an important change on that front as well. Karina Eerdekens: “From now on, the EOHS and the employer can use the exploratory visit to map what types of exploitation they operate (e.g. stores and warehouses) and establish a visit schedule based on the hazards and risks associated with those types of branches, allowing for regular visits to the different branches.” “Mensura is currently working on a method to make this possible for clients in such a situation.”

Conclusion: the substance and frequency of the company visit is adjusted based on a number of recent provisions in order to improve alignment. A distinction is made between small and large companies, taking into account any internal knowledge and repetition. In addition, increased flexibility is available to companies with multiple branches.

On Wednesday 22 September 2021, the Employment FPS is organizing a free webinar from 11 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. to present the Royal Decree. Register here.

This modified way of working will take effect on 1 January 2022. We are making the necessary preparations behind the scenes. Communication with our clients about concrete agreements associated with these changes, will follow at a later stage. If you have any questions, please contact us at bedrijfsbezoeken@mensura.be.