The French Health & Safety environment is considerably different from that encountered in, say, the United Kingdom and the following is not intended as a high level survey of the field of health and safety at work in France :

PREVENTION

Prevention is an ongoing obligation of employers in France which can take various forms:

  • The obligation on all employers to put in place a single document identifying health and safety risks in the work place,
  • Provision of health and service training to employees,
  • Adapting the equipment and machines ergonomically to employees and not the other way around
  • To inform and to anticipate impacts on health of moral harassment and sexual harassment
  • Companies with 50 or more employees must put in place a committee for health, safety and working conditions (comité d’hygiène, de sécurité et des conditions de travail also known as CHSCT). The CHSCT has a consultation and monitoring role and issues health and safety warnings. It must be provided with an annual report on health and safety and be consulted, for example, on any important changes in working conditions, as well as on the annual programs for the prevention of risks in the work place
  • The employer must be affiliated to an occupational medical service “medicine du travail”. The occupational medical service will examine employees to see if they are fit for work at the time of initial employment and will periodically see each employee throughout their career; after a prolonged absence from work will assess if they are fit to take up their position once more
  • More generally, there is increasing concern in France about addressing stress, particularly in the office works base with drives for performance, as there has been a list of recurring suicides and heart-related problems
  • The Supreme French Civil Court has been scrutinising working time arrangements, notably for executives “cadres” given the risks of over-extending working days without sufficient rest time.
  • Employers should also be aware of the role of the Works Inspector in ensuring compliances legislation and regulations in the work place.

LIABILITY

  • Accidents at work
    France has a specific compensation scheme for accidents at work, which is operated by the Social Security System.As a consequence, employers in France do not have a general employer’s liability insurance because of their contributions to the Social Security System for accidents at work.

    The system is not fault-based in terms of victims’ entitlement compensation. The Social Security Authority have to determine whether or not the accident is work related, and once it has been accepted the victim will be covered by the Social Security System.

    In principle, the victim cannot take action against the employer or other persons whom may have caused the accident, unless there has been inexcusable negligence “faute inexcusable”. This concept has been recently expanded by the French Supreme Court.

  • General strict liability for ensuring safety in the workplace.
    Beyond accidents at work, French case-law has developed a concept of a general obligation of guarantying safety in the work place which contains a strict standard of liability. The broad nature of the principle means that it can capture problems of work related illnesses, moral harassment, etc…
  • Criminal and civil liability of the company and its directors
    Liability can be placed on employer as a physical person but also on a company as a corporate body, both in criminal terms and in civil terms because of the risk of criminal prosecution in event of, for example, an accident at work, managing directors who are not directly responsible for the day-to-day operations can be held liable.However, it is possible for delegations of power to be granted to other members of the work force who then assume the liability for employment risks and hazards.

For a specific French law enquiry about the Health and Safety, please click here