Impact on occupational safety and health in Europe of the increasing use of portable computing and communication equipment

Project No. BGIA 1102

Status:

completed 12/2008

Aims:

The increasing use of mobile information and communications technology (ICT) in the occupational sphere is regarded as an emerging health risk for employees in Europe. With the aid of this mobile equipment, employees are able to perform complex tasks at virtually any location, and not only from an office. The pace of this development is constantly increasing in line with technical progress.
The purpose of this study was to find answers to the following questions: On what scale is mobile communications equipment in use among the working population? What developments may be observed in both hardware and telecommunications technology which permit the use of this equipment, and what predictions can be made regarding the future of the technology? What impact will the use and further development of mobile communications and data processing equipment have upon OHS management and upon regulation and enforcement in the context of European and national OHS legislation?

Activities/Methods:

A survey was first conducted of the current state of the art of mobile ICT equipment and of its use in the occupational sphere, together with an estimation of the future course of development. The survey was based upon literature and market studies conducted at national and European level. An overview was also obtained of the current progress of research into physical workload and mental stress which may arise during the use of this equipment. This overview was likewise based upon literature studies conducted at national and European level, and also upon consultations of selected European experts. The impact upon provisions governing industry-wide occupational safety and health and upon OHS management at plant level were examined together with experts from European partner institutions at a workshop. In addition, preliminary recommendations were to be made to the Commission for a future OHS strategy concerning mobile computer-based work. The result of the project is the submission of a study to the Commission.

Results:

A report on the research project was produced and submitted to schedule to the initiator, the EU Employment Directorate-General.
The report comprises the following elements:
An overview of the technology and the use made of it; ergonomic and psychosocial risks to employees; implications for the organization of the health and safety of workers at work; implications for EU legislation and its surveillance.
Mental stress arises primarily through the boundaries between the occupational and private spheres becoming blurred, and through mobile employees in some cases being less and less integrated into their companies through social contacts.
Physical workload is caused primarily by unfavourable ambient conditions for visual display unit (VDU) work during travel, and by the poor ergonomic characteristics of the mobile communications equipment.
The report's recommendation is that, not least owing to the rapid pace of technical development, legislatory initiatives should not be launched; proven and applicable standards from the EU directive governing VDU work should be applied, and recommendations drawn up for design measures suitable for practical implementation.
The report will be published by the European Commission in 2009.

Last Update:

14-Oct-2010

Project

Financed by:
  • Europäische Union - Generaldirektion "Beschäftigung, Soziales und Chancengleichheit"
Research institution(s):
  • BGIA - Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung
  • Verwaltungs-Berufsgenossenschaft
  • GVG - Gesellschaft für Versicherungswissenschaft und -gestaltung e.V
  • BGAG - Institut Arbeit und Gesundheit der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung
Branche(s):

-cross sectoral-

Type of hazard:

Arbeitsbedingte Gesundheitsgefahren, Arbeitsorganisation/ -schutzmanagement, ungünstige Arbeitsumgebung

Catchwords:

Bildschirmarbeit, Informationssystem, Technikgestaltung

Description, key words:

mobile work, mobile IT, mobile office, occupational health and safety, ohs-management, current status in europe, future development