KAN Report 14
|Information systems in the field of occupational health, safety and standardization, 09/1997
H. Zieschang/D. Ackers (2 MB)
Bookmarks in the pdf file link directly to the individual chapters. In the list of bookmarks, all sections available in English and French are highlighted in colour.
1. For KAN's work, it is important to obtain extensive information on all standards, draft standards, standardization projects, mandates, directives and regulations relating to the subject of occupational health and safety at national, European and international level. The kind of extensive information available in the field of standardization is generally covered by printed documentation or databases.
2. Based on concrete tasks which arise in the course of KAN's work, the study names a selection of available information sources and presents their advantages and disadvantages where the relevant experience has been made. In addition to existing standards databases, those with supplementary information from the field relating to standards are also taken into account.
3. As a rule, the German Standards Institue (DIN) supplies the necessary information on draft standards and standards. The DITR database which can be used online and the CD-ROM versions of PERINORM make information on standards of most European countries available. Further CD-ROM databases on special subject areas, printed services (such as DIN-Mitteilungen, DIN-Anzeiger) and the DIN advisory service (as European Information Centre) complete the range.
4. In view of KAN's tasks, the two databases developed by DIN and updated monthly, DITR and PERINORM, are the most important. For this reason, both are presented in detail in the study and compared. As far as the user is concerned, the most important differences between the two are as follows:
- PERINORM contains considerably more documents due to the fact that it covers more national standards areas than DITR. In European and international standards areas PERINORM is also considered the most complete collection of data around at the moment.
- PERINORM is more user-friendly than the DITR database. The former is easier to control via its menu than the online database with its own user programming language which first has to be learned. Access to the DITR database is now also possible via T-Online (via the "FIZ-Technik" host) which simplifies matters considerably.
- PERINORM provides the title and - not in all cases - a brief summary of the documents included.
5. If full texts of standards are required, these can be obtained in printed or electronic form from the publisher Beuth-Verlag. This publishing house also offers compilations on specific topics on CD-ROM. On condition of their cooperation, occupational health and safety representatives of the federal laender have the chance to draw up a selection of standards specially for the field of occupational health and safety.
6. Work on KAN studies on the subjects of "Safety and health of workers at work" and "Ergonomics" has shown that PERINORM is not structured specifically for occupational health and safety. The search for standards in this subject area is tedious and time-consuming. However, the aforementioned KAN studies provide assistance for using PERINORM in these subject areas.
7. The data sheet compilation or CD-ROM database "EC Legislation" from Fritze provides information on EC directives. The national German accident prevention regulations are collected on the CD-ROM "Die UVVen" of the HVBG (federation of the statutory accident insurance institutions of the industrial sector). National legal regulations in the field of the safety and health of workers at work can be found in "Safety at work" by Krause/Zander, in the "Arbeitsstätten" by Opfermann/Streit and on the CD-ROM "Technical Legislation" available from the publisher Beuth-Verlag.
8. All sources of information have one thing in common, namely that they do not include any details or contents of regulations still in the planning stage. Unpublished working documents or mandates in particular cannot be investigated. The KAN secretariat obtains some of the relevant details by contacting experts in the various standards bodies. In order to build up such contacts, however, it is dependent on obtaining information on body membership. DIN recommends the involvement of KAN employees themselves in these bodies.
9. Information on areas associated with standards can be called up from the databases of the hosts ECHO and EUROBASES, both organizations of the EU Commission. Information can be obtained on matters relating to industry, trade and EU legislation and is often available in several European languages. There is a charge for the use of EUROBASES databases; those from ECHO can be used free of charge.
10. Additional information from literature databases, compilations of current studies, from specialist medical areas and on safety technology are available via the commercial hosts FIZ-Technik and STN-International.
11. With regard to the financial aspect, it is important to weigh up in individual cases whether the accumulation of regular charges for the use of online databases or an annual fee for CD-ROM databases is cheaper. Online access is cheaper if inquiries are made infrequently, while in the event of frequent use of data, a CD-ROM not only reduces costs, but also has the advantage of always being available. On the other hand, it is easier for the operator to keep online systems up to date.
PERINORM is now the inquiry system used most frequently by the KAN secretariat. Due to intensive use, the annual costs of the CD-ROM version have certainly been worth it. The DITR database is now only used in rare cases.
12. An ISDN link allows direct access to further online databases. The possibility considered by DIN, namely for online access to a database with full standards texts which can be obtained in electronic form and further processed on PC, is especially attractive for KAN's work. In addition, an ISDN link provides access to the Internet and a rapid exchange of information via e-mail.
13. Few surveys have been carried out to find out which user groups actually look for information on the subject of occupational health, safety and standardization and which information sources they consult. A study conducted by the Institut für Umwelt-, Sicherheits- und Energietechnik (Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology) in Oberhausen provides analyses and results directed at those groups of occupational health and safety experts involved in KAN's work. A project planned at Brandenburg Technical University in Cottbus indicates the need for inquiry work, especially taking account of the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises.
This report provides a comprehensive summary of information sources currently existing on the subject of occupational health, safety and standardization and indicates that, if combined with other work, it could provide an initial overview of the required subject area. However, it is also made clear that - if we wish to obtain more detailed information and continue to work with it in texts - the appropriate aids for access to information on specific topics are lacking.
It is only possible to keep a clear overview of a large amount of information and to put it to good use if well-coordinated, regularly updated information systems are available. Large amounts of data can already be made available to the user via CD-ROM versions. Data updates can, however, be managed more quickly and easily if there is a standard central data pool. It therefore appears a good idea to offer greater support to systems with online access. However, in each case it is important to consider whether actual use rather justifies cumulative ongoing costs or regular annual charges.
This study has been carried out from the point of view of KAN's need for information, in accordance with its working method and functions. Despite this special angle, KAN advocates that this work be published and therefore also made accessible to other occupational health and safety experts interested in the subject.
Need for action from DIN
1. The experience acquired from the work of the KAN secretariat should be taken into account by DIN when updating the PERINORM database. It is important to make sure that search strategies can be developed more quickly and easily. Further supplements in the handbook or help fields would make an important contribution in this context.
The following specific points should be noted in particular:
- The titles and abstracts of all international documents should be included in standardized form in three languages, in German, English and French.
- Abstracts of all documents should be available since the contents of a document are often not obvious from its title and key words alone. If these summaries are not made available to DIN by the editing committee responsible for the document, DIN is requested to add the missing abstracts itself, or at least to cite the scope, e.g. for standards.
- The field "period for submitting an objection" should be included in the search function so that documents can be found whose contents KAN can still influence through its statements. A search in this information is so far only possible by exporting PERINORM files into other software with search functions.
- The multi-lingual lists of key words for a document should be made consistent in terms of content.
2. The results of the KAN reports 2 and 7 have already shown that there is no specific inquiry instrument for work on occupational health and safety standards and draft standards. Using the key words provided in PERINORM alone, it is often not possible to decide whether a document is relevant to occupational health and safety. DIN is therefore requested to extend the lists of key words for individual documents in PERINORM. A list of criteria should be drawn up in the KAN secretariat which could be used to make this extension (see point 7).
3. KAN asks DIN for permission to retain access to its data basis of the project "DIN-Büro" in which the work items of the individual standards committees are kept. This access should include an insight into the contents of projects and, in individual cases, make it possible to take a look at the working document approved by the working body before the prEN enquiry. DIN is also asked to make the application for standardization available to KAN at its request, even before standardization work is commenced.
4. The KAN secretariat requires information for developing its planned database for relevant bodies (see point 8). Much of this information exists at DIN in printed or electronic form. KAN requests DIN to make as much information as possible available about the employees of the institutions for occupational health, safety and standardisation without contravening data protection requirements. For the field of electrical engineering, the DKE (German Electrotechnical Commission) has already made a list of the members of national reflecting committees available to the KAN secretariat.
5. Once the matter of security has been settled concerning data inquiries in the Internet for which the user pays a charge, DIN also plans to make it possible to access full SGML-structured standards texts in the Internet. Bibliographical data - such as that stored in PERINORM - often do not include sufficient details about the contents of a document. However, full texts are very expensive, especially if the user accesses such a text only to find that it is not relevant to his work after all. KAN requests DIN to consider intermediate information stages in its plans for Internet inquiries, e.g. to permit a user to call up the contents of a standard only, which would then be less expensive for the user than a full text inquiry. The inclusion of such part inquiries should not pose a problem, especially in the case of SGML-structured files.
Need for action from the representatives of the laender
6. The representatives of the laender are requested to accept DIN's proposal and to draw up a list of criteria which can be used to put together a collection of occupational health and safety standards in full-text form and to make them accessible on CD-ROM.
Need for action from KAN
7. The KAN secretariat is commissioned to draw up a list of criteria for clear key words related to occupational health and safety based on the results of KAN reports 2 and 7. These should be selected so that, as an additional feature in PERINORM, they can assist the search for documents relating to occupational health and safety (see point 2).
8. In order to be able to obtain specific information on individual problems from experts in a wide variety of standards bodies, the KAN secretariat is commissioned to develop a new database. This is intended to reflect the links between the various working groups and standards bodies at the different advisory levels.
9. In small and medium-sized enterprises there is a need for information on occupational health and safety standards and their application in industrial practice. Initial approaches on how this subject area could be included and processed in a study are already described in a project idea of the Technical University of Cottbus. KAN commissions its secretariat to examine the need for a KAN study on the subject described and to draw up a corresponding project description.
10. The KAN secretariat is commissioned to establish contact with the institute UMSICHT concerning its project for developing an information system concerning legal and safety regulations. The secretariat should ascertain in which areas of this project a mutual exchange of information would be of use to both parties.
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