Avoidance of hazards and impairments arising from mental work

Project No. IFA 5138


completed 07/2017


The design of work organization, work equipment and human-computer interaction is increasingly being influenced by software. Software influences the tasks directly (for example as a tool for word processing or programming) and indirectly (in the form of software-assisted displays and control devices or control functions). Human-system interactions during use constitute informational work in which hazards and impairments caused by software serving as a tool should be avoided.

Basic factual information, hazards, and measures relating to the topic have been formulated by the Subcommittee Office of the Expert committee Administration in DGUV Rule 115-401 governing the sector of office-based companies. The subcommittee has asked the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance (IFA) to conduct preliminary work on the content.


DGUV Rules are compilations of safety and health rules found in state OSH regulations, accident prevention regulations of the German Social Accident Insurance Institutions, technical specifications, and of experience gained in prevention work conducted by the accident insurance institutions. The content of DGUV Rule 115-401 concerning the sector of office-based companies was developed, discussed and agreed by personnel from several accident insurance institutions and the social partners. The DGUV Rule is intended to support employers in the analysis, design and implementation of OSH measures.

The IFA's contribution lay primarily in selecting, evaluating and developing essential rules for work organization and management and in the design of human-system interaction in line with principles for software ergonomics.


The new DGUV Rule 115-401 governing the sector of office-based companies was created. This rule covers essential hazards and impairments arising during office tasks (e.g. work organization, VDU work) and in typical areas of work (e.g. clerical tasks, communications, field work). Measures developed for this purpose, such as requirements concerning the properties of work equipment, have the purpose of improving the safety and health of workers in this sector. The IFA compiled potential hazards and identified suitable measures for work organization and management (such as regular group discussions in order to ensure feedback) and software ergonomics (such as software adapted to the workers' tasks and legible font sizes for the avoidance of mental fatigue).

The factual content was closely linked to the concept of work system design and design principles in consideration of mental workload, as defined in international ergonomics standards. The project team of the subcommittee discussed all content of the DGUV Rule and agreed it internally. The results are particularly relevant to the sector of office-based businesses, and are in principle also significant for other working areas.

Last Update:

6 Aug 2018


Financed by:
  • Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung e. V. (DGUV)
Research institution(s):
  • Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung (IFA)
  • VBG (Verwaltungs-Berufsgenossenschaft)
  • Sachgebiet Büro des DGUV Fachbereichs Verwaltung

-cross sectoral-

Type of hazard:

design of work and technology, questions beyond hazard-related issues, mental stress factors


(digital) information processing, ergonomic design of software, man-machine interface

Description, key words:

risk assessment, mental workload, human information processing, software ergonomics, usability, human factors, ergonomics, human machine interface, human system interaction, legal requirements