Often referred to as the 4th industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 refers to the intelligent networking of product development, production, logistics and customers. This offers new opportunities but also new challenges for workplace safety and health. A consequence of this is more and more complex machine controls whose safety must be guaranteed. In addition, increased networking, whether of production systems or workplaces in general, escalates the risk of data attacks or manipulation.
3D printing is a part of additive manufacturing. The technology uses digital 3D design data to manufacture a component. Digital networking is massive when it comes to 3D printing, from design to sales, from production to logistics.
Collaborative robots are increasingly becoming a part of production halls. These machines work directly with employees, without a protective screen or fence. Working side by side like this requires new safety standards.
In a virtual reality (VR) situation, a person interacts with a simulated environment. Employees can have a realistic experience with simulated machinery and equipment in a virtual work environment. This can also be used for occupational safety and health. In addition, it can provide support to people with impairments.
New opportunities and risks for ergonomic design
In addition to possible risks posed to employees, digital change has the potential to make work safer, healthier, more flexible and more ergonomic. However, digitalisation reduces manual work and encourages sedentary work, unilateral physical or mental strain or a combination of both.
New technologies also raise questions regarding the subject of standardisation. An overview of the relevant standards and standardisation requirements concerning Industry 4.0 are available in the German Standardisation Roadmap – Industry 4.0. Experts from the German Social Accident Insurance are involved in drafting standards to ensure that OSH aspects are taken into consideration from the outset.
The digital world of work also affects the testing and certification of work equipment and protective equipment. Through testing and certification, the German Social Accident Insurance directly influences the safe and healthy design of work. Test principles are developed for new technologies in order to reduce the risk of accidents or health hazards before a product enters the market. More information can be found on the DGUV Test website.