There’s plenty of talk of Work 4.0. But not much of the consequences for employee safety and health. What are the risks associated with current and imminent changes in the working environment? How can occupational safety and health address them? And where is the need for action particularly acute? IFA has answered these questions in a large-scale study. Its conclusion? The intensification of work, demographic change and digititalization are the most urgent developments when it comes to the health and safety of people at work. But employees are also affected to a large extent by non-work-related health issues such as unhealthy nutrition and lack of exercise outside work, which can compromise workplace health and safety. The details are presented in a brochure.
New trends in technology, society, ecology, the economy and government are making their mark on our increasingly complex world of work. Associated with these are new demands on employees, with the emergence of new safety and health risks.
The early detection of trends and the scientific monitoring of possible consequences for safety and health at the workplace are immensely important when decisions have to be taken on what is acceptable for people and how work can be humanely organised.
The DGUV Risk Observatory at IFA is just such an early detection system. It investigates important trends in the world of work and new risks at the workplace, pre-schools, schools and higher education establishments. The goal is effective, anticipatory, proactive prevention.
In an online survey, labour inspectors of all social accident insurance institutions in Germany assess close to 100 trends affecting the working environment. Such trends include the use of information and communications technologies (ICT), ergonomic stressing, precarious employment contracts, noise exposure, physical inactivity and unhealthy eating habits.
The purpose of the survey is to answer the following questions:
The findings are evaluated both within and across sectors of industry and fleshed out with literature searches. Each accident insurance institution is thus supplied with targeted information on its top trends, the associated risks and conceivable prevention measures.
At the same time, the Risk Observatory is in a position to identify top trends common to all accident insurance institutions and hence starting points for networking, communication and cooperation. It is thus easier to set priorities – above all costly prevention measures such as research projects – and share expertise acquired within a certain institution. This saves resources and prevents the duplication of tasks.
The first round of surveying was concluded at the end of 2015. 400 labour inspectors took part in it. The findings show that virtually all social accident insurance institutions have identified three subjects of special urgency:
The relevance of these and seven other subjects for occupational safety and health is presented in a brochure on the findings from the first round of surveying.
These trends will be the primary focus of workplace health and safety activities of the coming years. For these subjects, the Risk Observatory therefore has a broad array of prevention suggestions at the ready. Spot-on prevention activities have to be as diversified as the trends themselves. Above all else, they must prove their worth at the workplace, even in small and the tiniest firms. Measures from all areas of prevention are available, ranging from consultations and testing through to research. For the cited top trends, this means for example:
To ensure that the findings of the Risk Observatory do indeed mirror the need for occupational safety and health in the field, an evaluation was performed after the first round of surveying. To this end, IFA questioned over 700 OSH professionals (Sifa). This revealed that the reality on the ground is accurately perceived by supervisory staff.
Preparations for the next round of surveying, scheduled to start in spring 2017, are already underway.
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