Ensuring occupational health and safety in the digital world
Screen and office work are key elements of our increasingly digital world. At present, a VDU (visual display unit) is the key workplace equipment for 80 percent of all office workers - whether it is a desktop PC, a laptop or a mobile device.
© Uwe Völkner, Fotoagentur FOX
VDU work is generally characterised by two attributes: Firstly, employees are unable to complete their work without working at a VDU. Secondly, a key part of the daily work is interacting with OSD (on-screen displays). This applies both to conventional work at a VDU in an office and to work with modern, mobile VDUs and their impact on the design of communication flow and tasks for example in control rooms. Among others, mobile devices include smart devices such as data glasses, smartphones and watches, as well as tablet PCs.
A key question which BAuA is addressing at present in the area of VDU work is: What limits apply to multitasking with the use of new information and communications technology (ICT)?
Office work poses fewer risks to health in comparison with physically demanding occupations. Nevertheless, in addition to an increase in the number of psychological strain - as reflected in headaches, nervous anxiety and irritability - classic complaints such as muscular-skeletal illnesses and symptoms relating to the eyes remain of importance in this area.
New technological developments, new methods of communication and the associat-ed flood of information can also lead to an intensification of work as well as increased expectations regarding the individual's working speed and workload. For this reason, in addition to the classic ergonomic structuring of workplaces, soft factors are also becoming increasingly important. These include, for example, the organisation of work, self-management and communication.
Our goal is to prepare and publish scientific findings relating to the design of safe and healthy work at VDUs. We are also researching the innovative aspects of work at VDUs like new, mobile ICT in the form of an assessment of chances and risks. On this basis, we are developing guidelines for the humane work design using both established and new ICT. The Workplace Regulations (ArbStättV) also stipulates minimum requirements regarding safety and health when working at VDUs (including the use of mobile VDU devices).