The GefStoffV of 26/08/1986 can be found here along with revisions since then.
The GefStoffV comprehensively regulates the classification, labelling, and handling of all types of hazardous substances.
The GefStoffV imposes the following obligations, among others (abridged), on everyone who deals with hazardous substances or tasks others with doing so (employers).
Establishing information and assessing risk (GefStoffV § 6)
Before commencing work, the employer must determine whether workers are carrying out activities with hazardous substances. Container imprints, product information, safety data sheets, and manufacturer disclosures may all be referred to as information sources. If this review concludes that hazardous substances have been used in work, the employer must assess all threats to the health and safety of the workers from here on out, and take the necessary measures for protection. The assessment will take place with respect to the following:
- hazardous properties of the substances or formulas,
- degree, type, and duration of exposure,
- work conditions and procedures,
- occupational exposure limit values,
- determining and assessing the effectiveness of protective measures, such as ventilation, suction, respiratory/dust protection, protective clothing
Consult the TRGS and GISCODE product group information for notes on the required work safety measures, or enquire with the Bau BG (German Building Trade Association). The results of this assessment must be documented.
Protective measures (GefStoffV §§ 8-11)
The results from the risk assessment will reveal the risk potential from hazardous substances that are processed, as well as the quantities used and the duration of contact. This information will be used to determine the protective measures that should be stipulated, whereby it applies that the less hazardous substance used, the fewer safety measures are required; the more hazardous substances are used, the higher the technical and organisational requirements and personal protective equipment must be used for the safety of the worker. The protection level concept abandoned with the revised form of the GefStoffV 2010, which provided increments of measures based on the actual risk, still offers a practicable, user-friendly aid for arranging suitable safety measures for dealing with hazardous substances:
Level 1 - low risk: Minimum measures for low risk and exposure, e.g., repair work with a repair mortar labelled as an irritant. Minimise the risk through organisational measures, such as supplying and using simple protective clothing (e.g., protective gloves or dust mask).
Level 2 - moderate risk: Applies to working with corrosive or highly flammable substances that are hazardous to health. Minimise the risk, if technically feasible, by choosing less hazardous products (substitution). If this cannot be done, use technical safety measures such as suction kit, blower, barrier. Personal protective gear is mandatory to wear. Measure to determine occupational exposure limit values (OELs). If OELs are exceeded, repeat the risk assessment and determine more effective measures.
Level 3 - high risk: Applies to handling toxic or carcinogenic substances. Minimise the risk through substitutions or closed systems. Measure and abide by occupational exposure limit values. Restrict access, seal toxins.
Level 4 - extremely high risk: Only applies to carcinogenic substances. Not relevant to floor/tile-laying practice.
Substitution requirement (GefStoffV § 6, paragraph 1, item 4)
Check whether products with lower risk to health can be obtained. Substitute hazardous products with ones that are less or not hazardous if technically feasible and reasonable. Change procedures or conditions if doing so will negate the need for hazardous products or can reduce the presence of hazardous substances in the work place. If a hazardous substance is used despite determining a risk, document the investigation results and reasoning for usage in writing. Industry-specific TRGS (Technical Rules for Hazardous Substances) such as TRGS 617 offer good support with respect to suitable options for substitution.
Supervisory requirement (GefStoffV § 6, paragraph 1, item 6)
The employer must determine whether the occupational exposure limit values are being complied with. This can be done through work place measurements or other equivalent assessment methods. If work is being done with replacement products in accordance with TRGS 617, the employer may assume that occupational exposure limit values are being complied with. Measurement is not required in this case.
Operating instructions (GefStoffV § 14)
Create and publish written operating instructions specific to the work place and product, including information on dangers, establishment of protective measures and rules for procedures, instructions for dangerous situations, first aid, disposal, etc. Operating instructions must be written in a comprehensible format. Briefings must be conducted before commencing activity with hazardous materials, and at least once a year after that.
Information requirement (GefStoffV § 14, paragraph 2)
Briefing and hearing with concerned employees regarding investigations, hazards, safety measures, measurement results, etc.