It’s all about people: priorities for tomorrow’s occupational safety and health

Zoom Image

Findings of the DGUV Risk Observatory: overview of the Top 10 prevention subjects
Source: DGUV, Graphics:

Zoom Image

Mobility poses a major challenge to workplace safety and health
Source: DGUV, Graphics:

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.

Methodology of the risk observatory

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:

  • Which trends are having a particularly large impact on the safety and health of insured persons?
  • Which specific risks – diseases, accidents, strain – do they give rise to?
  • Which specific prevention measures will remedy them?

Customised prevention and cooperation

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.

Findings from the first round of surveying

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 intensification of work and growing responsibility
  • Increasing share of older people
  • Networking, availability and control by computers and ICT

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.

Prevention measures for the field

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:

  • Preparation of activity-related rules and aids to the healthy and safe use of information and communications technologies (ICT)
  • Integration of the subject of "the safe and healthy use of ICT", particularly with regard to mobile employees, in the training of supervisory staff
  • Development of test principles and the offer of a voluntary ergonomic test with the award of a test mark to support ICT manufacturers in the development of ergonomic soft- and hardware (e.g. holders for ICT devices in motor vehicles)
  • Study on future applications and the risk potential of head-mounted displays and the derivation of prevention recommendations
  • Researching the special needs of older employees regarding the usability of ICT and the derivation of implementation recommendations for developers and manufacturers
  • Prevention campaign to sensitise employers to the subject of "work intensification, deadline pressure and stress"
  • Creation of a cross-institution competence centre for the conducting of "organisation analyses" in companies
  • Establishment of an OSH award for institutions/firms with outstanding age management (promotion of best practices)
  • The offer of standardised, regular, age-independent preventive occupational mental health examinations


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.

What next?

Preparations for the next round of surveying, scheduled to start in spring 2017, are already underway.

Results of the first round of surveying

It’s all about people: priorities for tomorrow’s occupational safety and health

Further information


Ina Neitzner

Central division: Interdisciplinary services

Tel: +49 2241 231-2721
Fax: +49 2241 231 2234