How the BFU works

History A long tradition of safety

Safety has been the watchword of the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention BFU since its inception in 1938. And that hasn’t changed.

At a glance

  • The BFU was founded on 12 October 1938 ...
  • … and converted into a private foundation 46 years later.
  • In 2008, the BFU moved into its current headquarters in the centre of Bern.

Committed to safety for over 80 years

1938. It’s the eve of the Second World War – petrol is scarce, and bicycles are fast becoming the conveyance of choice. But traffic discipline leaves much to be desired, resulting in a surge in accidents. Accidents during leisure time are another cause for concern. Skiing is popular, but ski bindings still have a rigid structure. And in the home? Accidents with domestic gas are widespread. This was reason enough for the then Swiss National Insurance Fund and the Accident Directors Conference to set up a foundation entirely dedicated to safety. The Swiss Council for Accident Prevention BFU came into being.

Today, more than 80 years on, the accident focal points might be different but the commitment to safety and the need for the BFU remain the same. Road traffic accidents have fallen dramatically in recent decades. Overall, however, the number of non-occupational accidents in Switzerland has risen sharply over time.

Embracing new challenges

This development doesn’t mean that accident prevention isn’t working; it is simply a result of fundamentally changing accident occurrence patterns. Today, people have more leisure time and can choose from a much wider range of recreational activities. Demographic change also plays a role: Switzerland today is home to rising numbers of senior citizens, whose age makes them more vulnerable to accidents. These developments clearly show that accident prevention is an ongoing challenge – and that the BFU’s commitment remains vital now and in the future.

Accident occurrence – then and now

Safety is without a doubt a win for the quality of life in our country. And, since its inception over 80 years ago, the BFU has been making a significant contribution. Be it in road traffic, sports or leisure – the BFU is steadfastly committed to accident prevention. Read about some of the milestones in the foundation’s history here.

Milestones

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After the Second World War, the number of passenger cars and two-wheeled motorised vehicles on the roads increased sharply, as did the number of accidents. In 1970, the BFU recorded 1694 fatalities on Swiss roads.

It responded by ploughing more than half of its resources into improving road safety – giving priority to defusing accident black spots, improving signalisation, promoting traffic education, boosting the seat belt-wearing rate and tackling drink driving. While the number of cars on the roads continues to rise, the number of accidents continues to fall – year after year.

The BFU has been launching annual prevention campaigns since the 1950s, and its billboards have become an indispensable part of the Swiss road landscape.

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Skiing has been in the prevention spotlight since the introduction of safety bindings in the 1940s. In the early 1960s, devices were introduced to adjust the bindings and ensure they function properly.

In 1970, the BFU introduced a quality label for ski bindings. In 1988, the Federal Department of Home Affairs decreed that only bindings with this label may be sold in Switzerland. The 1990s saw international and European standards coming into force, which replaced the BFU’s technical regulations.

The BFU prioritised water sports well into the 1980s, providing Italian-language information from the 1960s onwards to help raise awareness among Italian immigrants for drowning hazards.

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Rising disposal income and a changing society are resulting in an increase in recreational activities. Accidents at home and during leisure time are multiplying, with falls in particular topping the statistics. This issue remains topical, not least due to an aging population.

In 1976, the Federal Act on the Safety of Technical Installations and Appliances (STEG) entered into force. The BFU was given a mandate to monitor products in the non-occupational sector and withdraw from the market those which do not comply with safety requirements. The BFU introduced a quality label, which was replaced in 1997 by the BFU safety label. It promotes products and appliances that offer protection and are safe to use.