Mobile IT-supported work

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Mobile IT-supported workplace in materials management
Source: endostock, fotolia

As in more traditional forms of work, employees performing work supported by information and communications technology (ICT) are legally entitled to safe and healthy working conditions. In the area of traditional office VDU workplaces, this is assured by a number of detailed provisions and recommendations. The area of mobile work and the associated information and communications technology is however presenting occupational safety and health with new challenges. In this area, work is generally performed outside an office, and in most cases outside a company's premises altogether. Work is often performed on the move on laptops, tablets and/or smartphones, at locations or in situations which have little or nothing in common with traditional workplaces: in airport departure lounges, on trains, in railway stations or hotels, or simply wherever the worker happens to be at the time.

In such situations, it is not easy for the employer to fulfil his duty to ensure healthy working conditions. The majority of occupational safety and health (OSH) provisions concerning the area of information technology relate to a permanent location. The few codes of practice for changing working locations that do exist at the present time are very general in nature. In view of the expected further increase in these forms of work and the associated stress for the workers concerned, action by the OSH bodies is urgently needed.

In conjunction with the IAG, the IFA is studying the healthy design of mobile IT-supported work from several different perspectives:

  • From a workplace perspective, the stresses to which mobile workers are exposed in practice are being studied on behalf of the "Organization of occupational safety and health" expert committee (FA ORG) of the DGUV, in conjunction with social accident insurance institutions and companies. The results are being used to develop codes of practice and design recommendations for IT-supported work:
    • Issues relating to the integration of mobile information and communications technologies into vehicles are being discussed with technical groups with regard to both the legal aspects and those of practical implementation. Publications suited to a particular readership provide orientation and security to users in a workplace context. Lists of approved, safe products and interpretations of the results of crash tests have a positive impact upon market trends.
    • Guides to assist companies in selecting equipment are being produced; these draw for example upon laboratory studies into the quality of mobile ICT displays. As a result, equipment is used which is ergonomically suitable, safe and usable.
    • New problems relating to the organization of mobile work (such as isolation, which gives rise to increased mental stress) are being discussed with partners in industry.
  • Essential issues are being studied from an ergonomic perspective, and suitable approaches developed for solutions. The results are published in the specialist media.
  • In the interests of strategic, Europe-wide OSH management, a study was commissioned by the EU in conjunction with further national and international partners into the future impact of the increase in mobile IT-supported work upon occupational safety and health (Project Impact on occupational safety and health in Europe of the increasing use of portable computing and communication equipment).

The results of all activities are to be made available to industry.