German Social Accident Insurance: transformation of the world of work presents opportunities and risks

DGUV publishes comment on the "Green Paper Work 4.0" of the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs

02.12.2015

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An employee testing the safety of a collaborating robot at IFA, DGUV's research facitilty for workplace safety. (Dominik Buschardt / DGUV)

In the view of the German Social Accident Insurance Institutions, the transformation of the world of work presents opportunities and risks for occupational safety and health and for social security. This is expressed in their comment on the "Green Paper Work 4.0" of the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The comment was published today by the institutions' umbrella association, the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV). The comment describes new technologies, materials and production methods as having the potential to make the world of work safer and healthier. At the same time however, the developments give rise to new risks, for example of accidents during collaboration between human beings and robots, stress as a result of information overload, and non-standard employment relationships. According to the DGUV, the key to solving these problems lies in research, more training, and the development of a culture of prevention.

The German Social Accident Insurance Institutions not only insure persons against the consequences of occupational, school and commuting accidents and occupational diseases; they also provide advice to the companies and supervise them in issues of safety and health at work. This includes addressing future developments in the world of work in their prevention activity. In the institutions' expert opinion, the following key areas of activity are emerging:

1. Digitalization: technical progress presents huge potential for improving safety and health at work and thus reducing work-related accidents and diseases. At the same time, it presents new dangers, for example through hitherto unknown hazardous substances, safety risks arising through collaboration between human beings and robots, or stress as a result of continual reachability and information overload.

2. New forms of employment: forms of employment such as crowdworking, clickworking and teleworking raise the question as to how social security and occupational safety and health can be organized in the absence of an employer or a defined position of employment. Such forms of employment increase the importance of an independent and health-conscious attitude.

3. Diversity: new technical and medical developments present the opportunity for work and preventive activity to be shaped in such a way that health hazards and diseases can be avoided, and allowance made for the constraints of age and disability. This improves the long-term employability of older persons and persons with disabilities on the labour market. At the same time, changes in society, the shortage of skilled workers and immigration lead to growing numbers of women and first- and second-generation migrants in the workforce.

In the view of the German Social Accident Insurance, these developments give rise to a need not only for intensive research into prevention, but also for a stronger focus upon training, and in particular for the development throughout society of a culture of prevention that makes safety and health a natural and integral part of human activity.

The comment on the "Green Paper Work 4.0" is available for download here. (PDF, 978 kB)

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