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Work safety made easy - Operation instruction for hazardous materials

Posted by Bertrand Duteil on 15/09/2016


 Operation instructions are critical for any company, especially when it comes to work safety. They help preventing accidents and avoiding any health hazard, supporting the old adage “Better safe than sorry”.

What are exactly operation instructions?

Generally, the operation instructions sum up in a short form the different dangers linked to the use of a machine, a working method, a biological or a hazardous. It also provides informations regarding protection measures and recommended behaviors.

In Germany, enterprises have the obligation to provide their employees company specific instructions in a written form, tailored for the use and view of every person using these hazardous materials. The operation instructions needs to be signed by the employer or an authorized member of the management and is valid for an unlimited period. The legal bases of this document are defined by several ordinances such as the German Labor protection law and the Industrial safety regulation.

General information about operation instructions

  • The instructions must be explained to the employees (during a training for example)
  • The instructions must be accessible at any time
  • The instructions must be comprehensible and written in the languages of the employees
  • In case of revisions, the employer must update the operation instructions
  • According to the Labor protection law, the employer is accountable for the content of these instructions.

Operation instruction for hazardous materials

One of the most common form of operation instruction is the operation instruction for hazardous material. This document is mandatory for every company in Germany using or handling with a form of hazardous material. In a previous post, we gave information about the Safety Data Sheet ruling the use and labeling of hazardous substances and materials. The Safety Data Sheet is valid in the whole EU and contains all important information for the operation instruction.

On a transnational level, the use and labeling of hazardous substances and material is regulated by procedures such as the REACH (EU-Chemicals Regulation) and the GHS System. On the other hand, the law ruling work safety are set nationally by each country. In UK for example, this is regulated by the Health and Safety Executive.


In Germany, operation instructions for hazardous material are stipulated in the Ordinance on Hazardous Substances (GefStoffV) under the paragraph 14. The first section clearly states, which data must be contained in such a document. Information such as the risk assessment, hygiene requirements and protective equipment use as well as concrete measures in case of hazardous situation must represent the core of the operation instructions document. 

You can find further information about this paragraph here on the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection website. (page in german)

What is the difference between the operation instruction and the instructions of use?

Those two documents can easily be mistaken but are clearly different.

According to the Product Safety Act, the instruction of use will provide the user with information from the producer such as technical specification, usage suggestions and instructions regarding the implementation or the manipulation of the product.

Classic structure of an inst


ruction of use according to the Ordinance on Hazardous Substances

  • Area of application
  • Hazardous material identification
  • Hazard for the humans and the environment
  • Protection measures and behavioral code
  • Conduct in case of danger
  • First aid
  • Appropriate disposal

The hazardous materials on the operation instruction document must be labeled and identified with the matching symbols, according to the new rules of the GHS System (Globally Harmonised System), standard system for the classification and the identification of chemicals used in the United Nations.

Ask your supplier for an operation instruction

You can also directly request your supplier to provide you with an operation instruction document. Having a documentation duty for the safety data sheets collecting all important information for the operation  instructions, your supplier can easily prepare for you an operation instruction document. You will then only have to tailor it for your company before using it for your employees.

Further information

For UK:


You would like to learn more about operation instructions, how to request it directly from your suppliers and how to centrally manage it? Register now for an online demonstration to learn more about efficient document management with ecratum, you web-based supplier relationship management tool:

Click HERE to register for a free online-demonstration

Tags: Tipps, document types