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Safe working around the world

Our staff should be able to work in a healthy environment, and the work itself should not impact adversely on their wellbeing. That is why GIZ fosters the health of its workforce and guarantees a safe workplace.

Medical Services and the Occupational Health and Safety Team are two of the units responsible for this. Because of GIZ’s worldwide presence, some employees face particular risks, for instance if they work in crisis-affected regions. GIZ offers maximum protection, even in fragile contexts.

Occupational Health and Safety

Companies in Germany are required to guarantee occupational health and safety. The Act on the Implementation of Measures of Occupational Safety and Health to Encourage Improvements in the Safety and Health Protection of Workers at Work (Arbeitsschutzgesetz, ArbSchG) and the Act on Occupational Physicians, Safety Engineers and Other Occupational Safety Specialists (Arbeitssicherheitsgesetz, ASiG) regulate this obligation. Along with Medical Services, it is therefore the duty of GIZ’s Occupational Health and Safety Team to advise and support the employer, staff and managers on all aspects of occupational health and safety. The most important issues are fire prevention, accident prevention, ergonomics and decent working conditions.

Additional legal provisions are based on this legislation, including:

  • Providing support in drafting strategies (e.g. hygiene strategies)
  • Providing support and advice on relocations, new rentals and new buildings (e.g. the construction of the Eschborn Campus)
  • Providing support and advice on procurement (e.g. air filters)
  • Providing support in conducting hazard assessments inside and outside Germany
  • Conducting inspections at locations inside and outside Germany
  • Holding meetings of the Occupational Health and Safety Committee (ASA)
  • Engaging in dialogue with Medical Services and Corporate Health Management (CHM)
  • Holding fire drills, organising training courses (including in the form of e-learning)
  • Engaging in dialogue with the accident insurance provider Unfallversicherung Bund und Bahn and acting as the contact for them
  • Monitoring premise clearance volunteers (evacuation helpers and floor officers) across Germany
  • Reporting to the Management Board
  • Providing support for the EMAS audit (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme)

Eco-Management and Audit Scheme

Special factors outside Germany

GIZ has operations worldwide, so occupational health and safety experts not only advise GIZ at its German locations, but are available as contacts to all staff working in the field structure.

Since German occupational health and safety legislation does not apply outside the country, although field staff with a German employment contract are covered by the Unfallversicherung Bund und Bahn accident insurance policy, GIZ has come to a special agreement with the insurer. Under the agreement, GIZ also implements the guidelines set out in ArbSchG outside Germany, as far as this is possible. The accident insurance also covers accidents at work outside Germany provided the staff member involved has a German employment contract.

To support the field structure on matters relating to occupational health and safety, experts in this area visit the relevant country offices along with representatives of GIZ Medical Services as required. They carry out inspections and draw up hazard assessments. In this, GIZ Medical Services cooperates closely with the company’s psychosocial counselling unit (COPE), Corporate Security, the Construction Division and the Occupational Health and Safety Team so that a joint checklist can be used during a field visit and information shared.

It is not always necessary for the occupational health and safety experts to visit the partner country. They can use available papers, reports and other relevant documents. For instance, the Occupational Health and Safety Team advises the Construction Division on fire prevention, accident prevention and decent workplaces when new rentals, renovation work or removals are planned outside Germany.

Special factors during the COVID-19 pandemic

The pandemic also poses significant challenges for occupational health and safety. Those responsible are therefore involved in decision-making processes and measures relating to the pandemic, including the production and detailing of hygiene strategies to ensure compliance with all legal provisions of the Federal and Länder Governments. These strategies must be regularly updated and brought into line with the changing situation. The Occupational Health and Safety Team also supports those responsible within the individual GIZ properties to help them implement all current requirements. Against the backdrop of the hygiene provisions, advice is needed above all on issues such as air filters and how to redesign workplaces and allocate staff to workstations.

Safety and duty of care worldwide

Assignments in our partner countries can involve risks to the safety and security of GIZ staff. The risk of natural disasters, terrorist attacks and violent crime is higher in some places than in Germany. Moreover, local infrastructure and medical care are not always of the standard you would find in Germany. Assignments increasingly entail working in fragile contexts. For GIZ, this is particularly challenging in terms of its duty of care towards employees. The safety and security of staff is always given top priority.

The Corporate Security Unit

Overall responsibility for employee safety lies with the Management Board, to which the Corporate Security Unit reports directly. It was set up in 2016 and is responsible for our global workforce.

Key tasks of the Corporate Security Unit include setting up a global security risk management system, introducing crisis prevention measures and coordinating crisis management activities. The focus is on establishing and honing standard global security risk and crisis management processes and instruments and integrating these into relevant company-wide procedures and processes. Security risk management also involves conducting analyses of security policy and making the results available as the basis for carefully considered and sustainable decisions. The analysis unit attached to the Corporate Security Unit is the main point of contact for all security policy developments worldwide. It produces context analyses, foresight scenarios and ‘spotlights’ on the latest crisis developments to support the company’s operational departments and help them deal with the many different challenges and questions they face.

The unit also offers advice on the development and quality assurance of GIZ’s security risk and crisis management systems worldwide and ensures that all seconded employees and staff undertaking business trips to partner countries receive appropriate security training before departure. It acts as the single point of contact for GIZ and the German Government in the event of a crisis. It also coordinates all crisis management responses and chairs GIZ’s crisis team. The Security Officer is also attached to the unit.

To ensure that GIZ fulfils its duty of care, the Corporate Security Unit organises appropriate training to raise awareness of security issues among the staff concerned and promote a company-wide security risk culture.

Security risk and crisis management outside Germany

One of the management responsibilities of country directors is to ensure the security of employees during assignments in our partner countries. They are responsible for security risk and crisis management in countries of assignment.

GIZ staff, development workers and integrated experts are required to follow the security guidelines and instructions issued by their country director. They implement essential measures, thereby helping to minimise their exposure to risk. Before departure, all staff are required to complete the appropriate training prescribed for their country of assignment and offered by the Academy for International Cooperation (AIZ). The role of managers is to ensure that employees working in partner countries are not exposed to high individual risks unless suitable and commensurate measures are in place to minimise those risks.

Locally assigned employees report any security incidents to their line manager, the country director, the security risk management advisor or directly to the Corporate Security Unit and must ensure that they are reachable at all times in their country of assignment.

Before undertaking a business trip, all staff must make sure that they are aware of the security situation and any special regulations that apply in the country of travel and must notify the relevant country office of their travel details. Staff travelling or relocating to a partner country must also complete the online travel safety course and/or relevant in-person security training.

GIZ has established minimum security standards governing all security and risk management arrangements in partner countries. These standards set out basic principles and procedures for all country-specific security strategies and are systematically implemented worldwide. All security risk management measures are specifically adapted to local needs based on the context in the country of assignment. Compliance with the required measures is reviewed and confirmed in a status report. GIZ adapts these measures in response to any change in local operating conditions. This ensures that the security risk management system continues to reflect the situation on the ground and is geared towards protecting the security of employees. Country directors and the Corporate Security Unit clarify the resources that are needed on the basis of an annual country-specific security risk analysis. This systematic approach ensures that the company fulfils its duty of care and also allows GIZ to maintain its project activities even in fragile and high-risk contexts.

GIZ security guidelines

The following table provides an overview of GIZ’s security guidelines.

Framework for action: security and crisis management20082012
Staff safety and security policy20082012, 2016, 2017
Minimum security standards20162017*
Flight security2018Monthly

* The minimum security standards are to be updated in 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic in countries of assignment

The ongoing coronavirus crisis, which we have faced since the beginning of 2020, presents a unique set of challenges for GIZ. The rapid global spread of the virus and the constantly evolving situation make it vital for all relevant organisational units to coordinate their responses and decisions very closely under the direction of the Management Board. We must ensure that partner country structures are fully involved and that we maintain close contact with the German Government and our commissioning parties.

The flexible approach adopted by the company-wide crisis management system has proven to be successful in allowing the system to adapt quickly to conditions in our partner countries and at our sites in Germany. There are various discussion and communication channels and a central contact and support structure for staff, including a dedicated email address that employees can use to seek advice.

Thanks to these crisis management arrangements, GIZ is able to fulfil its duty of care, maintain its ability to deliver and find solutions to deal with the different developments in the pandemic and to meet individual needs in its partner countries. This has allowed the company to maintain a high degree of stability and ensure clarity both in Germany and the field structure.

Information on the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be found on this page:

Graphic: GIZ: SDG 3 Good health and well-being

Information on the following sustainability standards can be found on this page:
GRI standard 403; The Code 14