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Promotion of health and work ability - prevention of work-related diseases

Modern, preventively oriented occupational safety and health practice draws on interdisciplinary approaches to analyse the physical, mental, and social dimensions of health and their multifactorial determinants in individuals' behaviour and (work) environments. BAuA's research in this field of action will therefore address primary prevention, secondary prevention, and tertiary prevention (return-to-work (RTW) management and processes).
Suitable preventive measures are predicated on knowledge about the causal correlations between work and health. Longitudinal epidemiological studies and other evidence-based occupational medicine methods will be used to research these correlations. Attention will be centred on musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and metabolic conditions and mental health problems.

Information will be gathered about the successful reintegration of employees who have overcome or are still suffering from such conditions into working life. This will be done not only by tracing the return-to-work process for workers diagnosed with mental illnesses, but also by investigating concepts for RTW management, RTW approaches, and aftercare services to ascertain how widespread and effective they are.

In addition, the health impacts of the digitalisation of the world of work on the working population are to be examined, with digital technologies' preventive potential also being analysed. Against the background of the working population’s increasing heterogeneity, another priority will be to gain a better understanding of the capabilities, needs, and vulnerabilities of specific groups of employees and how these characteristics correlate with work ability and employability

Research projects in this field of action

Causation and prevention of work-related diseases

The monitoring of physical workloads and associated strains will be continued in order to gain more knowledge about the causes of work-related diseases and options for their prevention. Selected aetiological questions will also be investigated with a focus on musculoskeletal disorders, while holistic approaches to preventive occupational healthcare will be evaluated.

Further priorities for the work in this field will be the scientific supervision of interventions relating to sedentary work, their effect on risk factors for cardiovascular and metabolic parameters, and the investigation of correlations between psychosocial risks and (pre)clinical outcomes.

The Scientific Office of the Medical Expert Advisory Committee on Occupational Diseases (Wissenschaftliche Geschäftsstelle des Ärztlichen Sachverständigenbeirats "Berufskrankheiten") that has been newly established at BAuA in 2021 will conduct epidemiological research projects and systematic reviews, on the basis of which recommendations will be drafted for the recognition of new work-related conditions as occupational diseases and the updating of the existing list of occupational diseases.

Ongoing research projects

Correlations between work factors and mental health/well-being

During the 2022-2025 programme period BAuA's research into working times and time-flexible working will be further developed in the direction of identifying causal correlations between the characteristics of working time arrangements, working conditions, stressor characteristics, and health/well-being. Work will continue on the research line Promoting Mental Health and Participation. It will pursue the aim of determining aetiological correlations between working and employment conditions, mental health, work ability, functioning, and participation in working life. The research on recovery in and away from work contexts is also to be continued, partly with a focus on reviewing the effectiveness of design options.

Ongoing research projects

Workforce diversity and promotion of occupational participation

During the programme period BAuA will conduct research on participation in working life and inclusion from the perspective of differential work design. The aim is to promote employability through work design approaches for specific groups who would not have opportunities to do particular jobs if they did not receive appropriate support. This research will involve looking to a greater extent at the interactions between activity-related working conditions, contextual factors in organisations, and the interplay of relevant macrosocial dynamics with (individual and employment-related) diversity features.

The age and ageing-appropriate design of working conditions, and the analysis of opportunities for and risks to occupational participation by people with physical or mental impairments or disabilities will be prioritised. In parallel, there will be a focus on the opportunities innovative technologies are opening up to strengthen inclusion and employability.

Ongoing research projects

Return-to-work management

The research line Strengthening RTW Management and Promoting RTW Processes will be concerned with the description and analysis of return-to-work processes, the current practice of phased reintegration, and the effectiveness of return-to-work measures. Favourable and unfavourable factors for RTW management and processes are to be identified at the individual and organisational levels, while consideration is also to be given to the impacts of digitalisation on mental health.

The understanding of stay-at-work interventions is to be further developed in order to identify starting points for action that allows workers with health impairments to remain in their jobs over the long term. This will also involve taking account of links between return-to-work management and other prevention measures that apply OSH instruments, such as risk assessment or preventive occupational healthcare.

Ongoing research projects

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