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

Project No. IFA 0096


completed 01/2017


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 occupational safety and health with new challenges. The IFA, one of the institutes of the German Social Accident Insurance, assists the individual statutory accident insurance institutions in fulfilling their prevention mandate efficiently and purposefully. 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. This can be achieved with the aid of a risk observatory. The risk observatory identifies emerging trends in the world of work, examines the risks, and proposes appropriate prevention measures in good time. Since 2002, the IFA has participated in literature surveys and consultations of experts at European level in order to identify trends of economic, social, demographic and technical origin that give rise to new risks arising during insured activities. Examples of such trends include the growing use of nanotechnologies, exposure to new hazardous substances, rising job insecurity, and growing pressure upon schoolchildren and apprentices. The results of these activities at European level are now being exploited by the German Social Accident Insurance Institutions in the form of the DGUV RO, a risk observatory geared specifically to the institutions' particular needs. The risk observatory was established in 2011 by the IFA with the support of a working group of the accident insurance institutions, and with the IFA's support, entered its operative phase in 2012.


In a pilot project (IFA project 0094), the IFA developed an online questionnaire that represents the core instrument for DGUV RO. The questionnaire sets out eight global trends: new technologies, new substances and products presenting health risks, the growing significance of physical hazards, globalization and changes to the world of work and education, development of the service economy, demographic change, disasters, and unhealthy lifestyles. These global trends are in turn assigned to 94 key developments in the world of work and education, for example "growing use of computers/software" or "work with robots" as specific forms of the global trend of "new technologies". For each development, the labour inspectors consulted provided two estimations for the coming five years: with regard to the relevance of a development for the companies/institutions for which they are responsible, and with regard to the significance of the resulting OSH risks. For each development, the survey requested three primary prevention instruments that should be used to combat the risks.

The accident insurance institutions were surveyed in three clusters at different times in such a way that related sectors could be analysed together. Random sampling was organized to take account both of the number of individuals insured by each accident insurance institution, and its sectoral structure. Labour inspectors at the accident insurance institutions who are particularly familiar with the situation on the ground were surveyed as a matter of preference. Analysis of the survey results enabled the developments to be identified for each institution and sector that were considered particularly relevant by the majority of those surveyed. With the aid of supplementary literature surveys, the IFA then determined the need for action with regard to particularly high risks and/or associated stresses and diseases, and proposed new prevention measures. Finally, the results were evaluated in an industrial context, with the involvement of over 700 safety and health professionals who were consulted via their online platform (Sifa-Community).


Altogether, 398 labour inspectors completed the questionnaire in Survey I, in the period between 2012 and 2015; this corresponded to a feedback rate of 86%. The responses were analysed statistically, and the relevance of the 94 developments for the world of work in the immediate future were determined. The results were analysed for the accident insurance institutions both by institution and by sector, in order to take account of differences in the relevance of developments between institutions and between sectors. The results were discussed with all accident insurance institutions in three workshops. The reports on the results for the accident insurance institutions contain developments important to particular institutions, and also comprehensive statistical data serving as background information, information on related safety and health risks, and specific proposals for prevention measures. These aspects are drawn from literature surveys performed by the IFA, which also reflected free-text responses. The reports on the results are all available to the accident insurance institutions internally.

The top ten developments in the overall random sample, i.e. taken from the results across all the institutions, are: work intensification and long working hours; older workers; the use of information and communications technology for networking, reachability and monitoring, high mobility requirements, traffic densities; ergonomic stresses; extension of responsibilities; the skills shortage; job insecurity and precarious working conditions; noise; and inactivity during leisure time. The majority of these developments can be classified under the global trend of "globalization, changes in the world of work and education"; demographic change is also an important factor. However, the key prevention topics of the future also include issues familiar to the accident insurance institutions such as noise and imbalanced ergonomic stresses. It is notable that a need for action is also evident in areas beyond the core responsibilities of the accident insurance institutions, such as lack of exercise outside work, and unhealthy nutrition. These two trends primarily concern the German Social Accident Insurance Institutions for the public sector. For the most part, in-plant evaluation involving over 700 OSH professionals confirmed the results obtained by the risk observatory. Around three-quarters of the OSH professionals confirm the relevance of the top developments. In 15 out of 55 developments surveyed (27%), minor differences were noted in the estimated risk. The results from the DGUV's risk observatory serve as a basis for the prevention activity to be conducted in the near future by the German Social Accident Insurance Institutions. A comparison of the most important developments for the various accident insurance institutions reveals overlap and angles for networking, dialogue and cooperation. This enables the accident insurance institutions to economize on resources and avoid duplication of effort.

Last Update:

5 Feb 2019


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 assessment, prevention, risk, emerging risks, trend, development, German Social Accident Insurance Institution, changes in the world of work


Further information