Production at Bosch plant Stuttgart Feuerbach (1918)
History

Workplace regulations and safety at work

6 minutes

2018-12-06

The move from the Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering to Elektrotechnische Fabrik Robert Bosch resulted in a wide range of changes and the first workplace regulations, which came into effect on November 15 – exactly 15 years to the date after the company was founded. The eight paragraphs outlined working hours, pay, and the process of terminating associates. Today, the workplace regulations are 38 pages long, including a list of important terms and definitions. Taking a look back helps illustrate the history of social progress and associates’ duties over the course of several decades.

Working time regulations yesterday and today

The workplace regulations called for working hours of nine hours a day, six days a week. Associates had a 90-minute lunch break that was designed to allow them to eat at home. At the time, the company did not have a cafeteria. The first canteen at Bosch would open in Feuerbach in 1919.

With ten public holidays a year, associates automatically had almost as many days off as they do today. Although people no longer have to work nine hours a day, six days a week, production associates have worked evening, night, Sunday, and holiday shifts since the introduction of the eight-hour day in 1906, which made the multi-shift system possible in the first place.

Occupational health and safety

Architectural drawing of the first factory, 1900
Architectural drawing of the first factory, 1900

Occupational health and safety, as well as accident prevention, have played an important role ever since Robert Bosch built his first factory.

Robert Bosch placed a strong focus on good air and light conditions back when he built his first factory. He wanted associates to stay healthy. A ban on drugs and alcohol came later. Although the sale of alcohol on the company’s premises remained standard practice for many years, the inspections and requirements aimed at ensuring accident protection have since become far stricter.

Environmental protection and resource conservation

Robert Bosch cared greatly about environmental protection. While efforts aimed at environmental conservation are enshrined in today’s workplace regulations, there were no written rules on the subject back in his day. The common warning among associates whenever Robert Bosch would approach – “Dad’s coming, hit the lights” – reflects this sense of awareness. Even then, no one was to waste material or energy.

Rights and obligations

Draft of a poster encouraging associates to save water, 1973
Draft of a poster encouraging associates to save water, 1973

Today, every associate has a detailed and defined right of complaint. Associates who feel they have been disadvantaged or treated unfairly can file a written or oral complaint with their supervisors, a member of management, the human resources department, or the works council. Anyone who does not feel that they have been taken seriously is requested to contact the board of management directly.

In return, associates also have obligations that were not as strictly defined at the start of the 20th century. Attending compliance training, where associates learn about things such as accepting gifts and their obligations to avoid disclosing certain information, is one such obligation.

Kathrin Fastnacht

I am the head of Historical Communications at Robert Bosch GmbH, and I work on preserving and communicating our company’s long and multifaceted history. Before joining Bosch in 2007, I was employed for over ten years in various museums in an academic capacity. I also worked freelance in the same field. As a historian and specialist in cultural studies, I want to show that history is far from dusty and lifeless, but rather relevant and exciting.

Picture of Kathrin Fastnacht

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