Performance of Survey II within the risk observatory for the German Social Accident Insurance Institutions

Project No. IFA 0100


completed 03/2021


At workplaces, and also in children's daycare facilities, schools and institutes of higher education, new risks are constantly emerging for the individuals insured by the German Social Accident Insurance. These new risks present new challenges to occupational safety and health. An important form of support in predictive and at the same time practicable planning of resources may involve identifying new and anticipated requirements upon workplace safety and health at an early stage and as precisely as possible. For this reason, the German Social Accident Insurance Institutions tasked the IFA in 2011 with developing and setting up a risk observatory. In 2012, the DGUV Risk Observatory entered the operational phase under the supervision of the IFA. Following successful completion of the first survey round in 2015 and publication of the results (project number IFA-0096), the second survey round was now to be launched as scheduled (every five years) with a modified concept. As in the first survey round, the aim was to identify emerging risks at the workplace at an early stage on a sector-by-sector basis and to equip the accident insurance institutions to offer suitable measures for prevention. At the same time, shifts in topics from the results of the first survey round were to be identified.


In order for consideration to be given to the feedback and experience gained on manageability and use of results from the risk observatory's first survey round, the survey instrument was revised: new developments identified from the literature and popular science sources were added, and developments shown by the results of the first survey round to be irrelevant were deleted. In contrast to the first survey round, the questionnaire for the second and subsequent rounds was to be sector-specific, with an average of around 35 developments per questionnaire (compared to over 90 in the first survey round). The sectors correspond to a survey conducted at the accident insurance institutions, which in this survey round had the opportunity of determining the sectors they considered to be of particular importance to them. The developments in the questionnaire can be assigned to the following nine generic trends: new technologies, the digital transformation, substances/products hazardous to health, physical hazards, globalization, the emergence of a service economy, demographic change, disasters and social change. They are the result of an extensive literature review. The survey was now aimed not only at labour inspectors, but also at prevention specialists from DGUV expert committees and subcommittees. In addition, a two-stage online method was used, which was intended to reduce the time needed for completion while maintaining the same depth of information. The first stage of the survey posed questions concerning the significance of developments in terms of the potential safety and health risks for the insured individuals, on a scale of 1 to 9. A mean value was calculated from the respondents' ratings for each of the approx. 35 developments per sector. The developments were then ranked according to mean value and standard deviation. A confidence interval was also calculated for each mean value in the ranking to determine which developments differ significantly from each another. In the second stage of the survey, labour inspectors were asked to provide a subjective ranking of developments and their ideas concerning prevention. This applied however only to developments assessed in the first stage of the survey as being particularly significant.

The accident insurance institutions were surveyed in three groups (clusters), staggered over time such as to enable related sectors to be evaluated together. The selected sample size enabled allowance to be made for both the number of individuals insured by the individual institution, and its sectoral structure.

A statistical evaluation then enabled the developments considered particularly relevant by the majority of respondents to be identified for each specific sector. With the aid of supplementary literature surveys, the IFA subsequently used up-to-date numerical and other data and facts to substantiate the relevance of the developments identified and to describe the need for action with respect to high risks and/or associated exposures and diseases. The respondents' ideas for prevention were supplemented with additional ideas drawn from the literature survey. Finally, the results were evaluated in the field by means of an online survey of OSH professionals.


In total, 865 and 798 prevention specialists completed the questionnaires in the first (response rate 91.1%) and second (response rate 86.6%) stages respectively in the second survey round, which was conducted between 2017 and 2019. The responses were analysed statistically and the relevance of the developments was determined. The results were evaluated for a total of 42 sectors and reports of results compiled for 37 different sectors. Besides developments of individual importance, these reports also contain extensive numerical material serving as background information, references to associated safety and health risks, and specific suggestions for prevention measures. These aspects are derived from information provided by the survey participants and from literature surveys conducted by the IFA based upon free-text responses. All reports of the results are available internally to the accident insurance institution concerned. Some reports are also available online at online (currently in German language only).

The top ten developments revealed by the overall random sample of the second survey round include the following (frequencies of occurrence among the top developments across all clusters are shown in parentheses): shortage of skilled workers (33x), demographic change and imbalanced age structure (33x), work intensification, longer working hours and expansion of responsibilities (31x), prolonged and/or one-sided strain upon the musculoskeletal system (27x), intercultural and language requirements (25x), noise (17x), mobility requirements/traffic density (13x), ICT and networked automation, also affecting mobile work (12x), lack of social and/or financial recognition (12x) and UV radiation (12x).

In a dedicated online survey conducted in six sectors serving as examples, the evaluation in companies examined the extent to which prevention specialists from the German Social Accident Insurance Institutions and OSH professionals arrive at the same assessments of the developments. The evaluation largely confirms the results of the risk observatory. Across the six sectors, the lowest correlation was 77.5%, the highest 92.3%. The results obtained by the DGUV Risk Observatory provide the German Social Accident Insurance Institutions with orientation for their prevention activity in the near future. A comparison of the most important developments for the various accident insurance institutions reveals overlap and angles for networking, dialogue and cooperation. Topics that will be the prime determinants of future prevention activity vary from sector to sector, but share common features: the challenges for maintaining safety and health at work are growing in their complexity, and interplay between diverse risk factors – particularly in combination with mental stress – is the rule. Prevention activity must be all-encompassing and interdisciplinary. Occupational safety and health must also take account of a growing number of factors which are beyond the legally defined reach of the accident insurance system, but which nevertheless have consequences for the safety, health and well-being of employees. Examples are parameters of collective bargaining legislation and labour market policy, social value standards and global migration flows. Cooperation with other bodies beyond the accident insurance institutions may deliver solutions.

Last Update:

11 May 2021


Financed by:
  • Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung e. V. (DGUV)
Research institution(s):
  • Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung (IFA)
  • UV-übergreifend

-cross sectoral-

Type of hazard:

work-related health hazards


risk assessment

Description, key words:

risk observatory, prevention, risk, emerging risks, trend, development, accident insurance institutions, changes in the world of work

Further information