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Humane work design

In this field of action, BAuA will examine the opportunities and risks of new forms of work and technologies, as well as how to deal with hazards and stress factors in companies. These range from biological and chemical hazards to physical factors in the work environment, physical workloads, and psychosocial stressors and resources. Attention will also centre increasingly on correlated effects between individual stress factors and the application of findings when risks are assessed in the workplace. Against a background of technological change, the aims are to establish a sound scientific basis for the further development of work design standards, and to support organisations in the assessment of risks and the design of humane work using a range of instruments and tried-and-tested methodologies.

BAuA’s activities in this field of action are characterised by cooperation between various scientific disciplines. They are directed towards the fundamental determination of the consequences these technologies are having, the trialling of proposed new occupational safety and health solutions, and the evaluation of such solutions in the workplace. This will also involve looking at how employees’ safety and health are impacted by the application of artificial intelligence (AI).

Research projects in this field of action

Biological and chemical hazards

One central task in this thematic field is the revision of both the Ordinance on Hazardous Substances (Gefahrstoffverordnung), with amended provisions on asbestos, and the Risk Concept for Carcinogenic Substances (Risikokonzept für Kanzerogene), including the further development of relevant methods. In addition, attention will centre on supporting the risk assessment of activities in which hazardous substances are handled by updating the control guidance sheets for the Easy-to-use workplace control scheme for hazardous substances (Einfaches Maßnahmenkonzept Gefahrstoffe, EMKG).

The further development of "omics" methods and cell culture models for the measurement and assessment of complex bioaerosols' toxic characteristics in different workplaces is intended to expand the existing inventory of research methodologies and deliver results that can be used for the risk assessment of activities involving biological agents.

Protection against carcinogenic substances is also to be enhanced by engaging in initiatives and bodies of all kinds. Examples include BAuA's leading role in the Roadmap on Carcinogens (RoC 2.0) initiative as an EU contribution in this field, and its support for the Joint German Occupational Safety and Health Strategy (Gemeinsame Deutsche Arbeitsschutzstrategie, GDA) work programme Safe Handling of Hazardous, Carcinogenic Substances.

Ongoing research projects

Physical factors

The research activities in this field will continue to revolve around physical factors in the work environment (noise, optical radiation, climatic conditions in the workplace, increasingly the issue of ventilation as well) and their impacts on employees, with particular attention being paid to the assessment and minimisation of relevant risk factors.
The new thematic fields here include the impacts of climate change on working conditions, as well as the hitherto little-researched consequences of combinations of different physical factors in the work environment and their effects on workers’ well-being and health.

Ongoing research projects

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Physical workload

The key indicator methods elaborated during the 2018-2021 programme period are the central topic in this field of action. The methods are to be adapted and, where necessary, further developed, for example by the integrative assessment of different types of physical workload, the holistic analysis of physical workloads together with other workloads (e.g. psychosocial), and the consideration of further pressures (e.g. physical underload). Practice transfer at the national and European levels will be accorded particular significance in this connection.

In addition, the aspiration is to combine risk assessment based on the key indicator methods with modern techniques for surveying physical workload and strain, in particular using wearable sensors.

Ongoing research projects

Psychosocial stressors and resources

There are still gaps in the empirically backed design knowledge about key factors for mental health in the world of work and their interactions. With its research, BAuA is seeking to generate knowledge of this kind, extend it, and make it available for workplace practitioners. In this respect, interest is centred on work intensity, above all time pressure and pressure to perform, information overload, recovery, social relationships, and leadership.

Other research priorities include humane work organisation in the health sector and the humane design of interactive work.

Ongoing research projects

Time- and location-flexible working

Both flexible working times and location-flexible working (e.g. teleworking, mobile working) have become more significant due to globalisation, digitalisation, and the corona pandemic. In this context, the limits of employees' freedom of choice about flexible working and options for the healthy design of flexibility requirements will be analysed in detail to gain insights into the health-related consequences in each case and relevant design possibilities.

The findings reached by ergonomics about the design of different atypical working time models will be updated regularly against the background of the changes taking place in individuals’ work and work requirements, and examined in the light of new developments. This applies particularly with regard to shift work, but also forms of on-call and standby duty.

Ongoing research projects

Innovative work systems

BAuA’s research into innovative work systems will address different substantive and methodological priorities. These include the analysis and further development of modelling and simulation procedures for the conception, design, and planning of work systems and activities, as well as research into the integration of occupational safety and health aspects into process-based planning methods for workplaces.

The research on human-robot collaboration that has been well established at BAuA for a long time now will be continued with further investigations into the impacts of new sensor technologies, data processing algorithms, and flexible/adaptive automation and task assignment. Another priority is the analysis and design of human-technology interaction, in particular in service and knowledge work, with account being taken of smart information and communication technologies.

Ongoing research projects

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