KANBrief

Cover pages of several issues of KANBrief© KAN/Miesner

The KANBrief is a quarterly update concerning news and trends in the field of occupational safety and health and standardization. The print version is published in German, English and French. The electronic version is also available in Italian and Polish.

Here you can download our KANBrief. All KANBrief issues published after 23 September 2018 are in an accessible format.

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Year of release

Lead topic of the next issue

China's role in standardization

Lead topic

Action by companies is particularly conducive to success when consideration is given to human factors. Standards governing ergonomics contain a wealth of guidance for companies. For 50 years, such standards have communicated fundamental principles of ergonomics, presented important concepts in the sphere of human factors, and created a recognized body of rules for the design of work and products.

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A good approach to safety and health at work is good for everyone: workers, companies and society as a whole. Such an approach requires a good culture of prevention. Specifically, employers and management personnel must commit to preventing health risks and actively promoting good employee health.

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Where the behaviour of systems cannot be predicted, defining requirements for them presents legislators with a challenge

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The occupational safety and health community aims for a standardized measurement procedure

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Transparent, practical, with greater participation

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Special

Since the global lockdown triggered by the corona pandemic in the spring of 2020, community face coverings have become a familiar sight. They are among the hygiene measures taken to contain the virus. Community face coverings are available for purchase, but can also be made by users themselves. They are also termed “mouth and nose coverings” (MNCs), reflecting their function; the term intentionally does not imply a protective action.

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Personal protective equipment, community face coverings, an occupational safety and health standard: the coronavirus pandemic has raised many new questions concerning practices at the workplace. What measures and protective equipment can be used to protect employees? KAN has compiled a range of information obtained from numerous sources on the subject of corona and occupational safety and health.

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Following several fatal accidents on treatment tables with electrical height adjustment, KAN organized an expert discussion of the design of safe treatment tables at the beginning of 2019. The parties involved discussed their respective positions and launched efforts to reduce the hazard on existing and new treatment tables. The second KAN expert discussion, held in October 2020, showed that significant progress has been made but that much remains to be done.

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EN 17169, Tattooing – Safe and hygienic practice, was published in spring 2020. Its content includes guidelines for tattooists, and also hygiene requirements. In its comments on the draft standard, the occupational safety and health lobby had stated that the standard’s focus must lie on the quality of the service and the safety of the customer, and not on the safety of the tattooist.

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The argument made for open-plan office concepts is that they are transparent working environments conducive to communication. However, the planning and design of such offices is complex, for a number of reasons. The acoustics in particular pose enormous challenges. Methods for measurement and assessment relevant to the subject can be found in state regulations and standards.

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Atmospheric limit values for protecting human health against the adverse effects of hazardous substances at the workplace are generally set with reference to toxicological and occupational health data. However, consideration is often also given to technical feasibility and economic viability. What importance should be attached in prevention to cost-benefit considerations?

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Special

ISO TC 260, Human resource management, has developed a technical specification in which metrics for the incidence of occupational accidents are standardized internationally. At its meeting on 12 November 2019, the executive board of EUROGIP, the French occupational safety and health organisation, expressed strong reservations with respect to this project, and drew up a position paper, excerpts of which are reproduced here.

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Standardization projects in the field of human resources management are growing in number, particularly at international level. The benefits and drawbacks of such standardization, and how – indeed if – it can be applied to human resources issues, are discussed here by Harald Ackerschott, chairman of DIN's mirror committee on human resources management, Jan-Paul Giertz, head of the section responsible for codetermination and human resources management at the Hans Böckler Foundation, and Carsten Rogge-Strang, CEO of the employers’ federation of the private banking industry (AGV Banken) and member of KAN.

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Kai Schweppe became KAN’s new Chair in June 2020. The economic and ergonomic shaping of work has long been a focus of his activities. After completing his engineering degree, he initially worked in company and labour organization within the clothing sector. In 2000, he took up the position of engineer at the Südwestmetall employers’ association. He has headed the association’s department for labour policy since 2011 and has been its Managing Director since 2013.

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The need for suitable standards is undisputed in the skilled crafts sector of an economy based on the division of labour. However, notwithstanding the advantages, the skilled crafts sector also considers some developments in standardization to be problematic. In its position paper on the skilled crafts and standardization, published in May 2020, Germany’s National Federation of Skilled Crafts and Trades (ZDH) advocates for standardization to be reoriented to the needs of SMEs.

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Part 3 of EN 14175 describes a range of type test procedures for fume cupboards. The required test gas mixture contains sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). Although non-toxic, this gas is highly harmful to the climate, with a global warming potential some 30,000 times that of CO2. Since SF6 is already prohibited in many countries, an alternative is needed. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is being discussed as a possible substitute. This gas is however not without its problems for occupational safety and health.

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Special

Electric kick scooters have become a common sight in many cities. Anyone who has tried riding such a vehicle will confirm the difficulty of negotiating uneven surfaces on the scooter’s small wheels, or signalling turns by hand. Electric kick scooters are also often ridden by two riders or on the pavement, despite this being prohibited. Further discussion is therefore needed of the safety of these vehicles in traffic.

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The current development from partially to highly and fully automated driving, and ultimately to autonomous driving, is expected to deliver huge improvements in road safety. For this development to be successful, it must be supported by a regulatory framework within which solutions can be found that are safe for drivers and, if at all possible, harmonized throughout Europe or indeed worldwide.

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The current spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus underscores the importance of good hygiene for the prevention of infections. In hospitals in particular, cleaning has an important function in reducing the number of microorganisms on surfaces and thus lowering the risk of infection for patients, workers and visitors. The new DIN 13063 standard governing hospital cleaning is intended to set uniform standards for the cleaning process.

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Do you have an idea or proposal for a standard? Would you like to amend an existing standard, for example to take account of developments in safety technology? You can! But how does the European standardization process actually work? This article describes the individual steps and shows you the points at which you can influence the procedure, and how.

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Personal protective equipment with integrated intelligent functions (smart PPE) holds the promise of enhanced protection. However, for smart PPE to be developed successfully and brought to market, users must be involved in the development process (user-centred design). A user survey conducted throughout Germany on smart PPE for use by the fire services has revealed valuable information.

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Special

Potholes, cobblestones, speed bumps: uneven road surfaces like these are familiar to every cyclist. The extent to which vibration and shocks caused by such surfaces reach the rider depends, among other factors, upon the design of the bicycle. KAN is lobbying for this vibration to be covered by standards, since bicycles also serve in many areas as work equipment. Pedelecs account for a rising proportion of these bicycles.

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In 1995, Germany's Federal Highway Research Institute noted a significantly elevated accident risk for ambulances. Each year, an average of 3,500 traffic accidents, or one accident for every 2,000 operations, were recorded in the former West Germany. During journeys with sirens and flashing lights, a critical traffic situation arose on average once every 19 seconds. This was deemed sufficient reason to examine the design safety of ambulances and to improve EN 1789.

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On conventional high-visibility clothing to EN ISO 20471, retroreflective elements are intended to ensure 360° visibility of wearers in the dark. Such clothing is however largely ineffective when it is not illuminated by an extraneous light source. Luminous high-visibility clothing could be the solution. The Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the DGUV (IFA) has tested the effectiveness of such clothing and is submitting the results to development work on a pre-standard.

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2019 was a special year for KAN: it marked 25 years of successful advocacy for the inclusion of OSH concerns in standardization activity. On 4 December, 160 guests from eight countries met at the Berlin premises of the DGUV to celebrate the anniversary. They did not, however, only look back. The talks and discussions focused on how standardization and regulation can respond to the issues of digitalization, artificial intelligence and the increasingly rapid pace of technical development.

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Can standardization keep up with the increasingly rapid pace of change of innovations, and still contribute in future to safety and health at work to the same degree as it is currently doing? The track on which this race is being run is very complex. Developments are now taking place that differ from change in the past in being disruptive in nature. Things change within a short space of time, and owing to radically new philosophies, no longer fit neatly into the existing system.

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HCI International is among the major conferences in the field of human-computer interaction. “Computer” in this context increasingly covers any form of machine or device possessing a digital interface. Much of what is being discussed somewhat vaguely with the buzzwords Industry 4.0 and artificial intelligence (AI) comes into focus at this conference: smart glasses at work, exoskeletons and networked machines, AI and occupational safety and health, cybersecurity and data security.

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Automated decision-making is becoming increasingly accepted. Machine learning now allows management to make decisions about workers at a more granular level than ever before, based on comprehensive information preselected by algorithms. Given the cutting edge nature of the technologies used, it is important to look at the occupational safety and health issues arising as well as benefits posed for workers today.

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The impact of AI is likely to be great, since it permits a revolution in the workplace. In the long term, AI may indeed take on much of the effort that is currently performed by people, including professional work that requires special training and up to now has been beyond the ability of machines. In the short to medium term, though, AI tools will need to be taught to do the work that they will assume in the future.

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As digitalization progresses, the processing of growing volumes of data presents manufacturing companies with major challenges. Machine learning, a sub-domain of artificial intelligence, can be used to generate valuable knowledge from data. When applied in industry, this process – termed “industrial data science” – may translate into a major competitive advantage in the future.

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As in other scenarios, worker safety must be assured in the transformable machines and production facilities of Industry 4.0. Owing to the high level of networked integration, consideration must be given not only to functional safety, but also to a greater degree to security against external attack, and to the mutual influences of the two. It must also be considered to what extent existing risk assessment methods will be suitable for the transformable machines of the future.

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Transporting patients is a physically challenging task for personnel in the ambulance services, particularly when obstacles such as staircases must be overcome. According to the German Ordinance on health and safety requirements for the manual handling of loads at work excessive stress, particularly upon the lumbar spine, caused by lifting of heavy loads should be avoided. The question remains however how this can be achieved in practice. A study by the IFA makes important suggestions in this respect.

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Lead topic

Around 23% of employees in Germany are required to lift and carry heavy loads, 14% to adopt unfavourable body postures whilst working1. Exoskeletons, assistive systems worn on the body, are intended to make these tasks easier. Originally developed for military applications or medical rehabilitation, they are now also finding their way into the world of work. How do exoskeletons work? What opportunities and risks do they present?

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Faster, higher, stronger: the development of exoskeletons for military purposes began under the Olympic motto. Exoskeletons are now also set to revolutionize day-to-day industrial production, and to relieve the burden upon employees by means of supporting structures. But what are the legitimate reasons for their actual use? And how can new technology of this kind be introduced intelligently on the production line? What opportunities does it present for companies and their personnel – and what risks?

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The use of exoskeletons and other equipment in companies to support physical work has been growing for some time now. This equipment is intended to ease strenuous tasks and to support the wearer. The companies using exoskeletons hope that they will permit solutions by which musculoskeletal diseases can be avoided. This raises the question however to what extent exoskeletons are accepted by the workers themselves. A study conducted by the INRS has examined this aspect.

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The EUROSHNET conference is the venue at which experts, decision-makers in the fields of standardization, testing and certification, and people from the most diverse institutions, companies and countries in Europe can network. Around 120 OSH experts from 16 countries took advantage of the opportunity for intensive dialogue at the 6th EUROSHNET conference, which was held in Dresden from 12 to 14 June.

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Professor Dr Joachim Breuer was Director General of the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) from 2002 to 2019. Besides other functions, he is now President of the International Social Security Association (ISSA) and the Club de Genève – Global Social Future in Switzerland. At the 2019 EUROSHNET Conference in Dresden, he ventured a look at the future world of work in the age of 4.0 and globalization.

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Nanomaterials do not exhibit any particular new form of toxicity. The release of nano dusts may however lead to hazards at the workplace. A grouping approach supports the specification of effective protective measures. Particular attention must be paid to materials that release respirable, biopersistent fibrous particles in the course of their life cycle.

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Special

This question was posed by KAN in conjunction with the DGUV at the Dresden Prevention Forum on 6 March 2019. In a discussion chaired by Dr Norbert Lehmann (ZDF), experts from industry and the research and occupational safety and health communities debated whether and how OSH-related research, standardization and regulation are able to keep pace with the strongly accelerated progress of technical development at office workplaces.

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In our digitalized world, developments are taking place at an ever increasing pace. This includes developments in VDU and office workstations. Co-working spaces, open spaces, agile working, Office 4.0: these are just some of the buzzwords used to describe the office of the future and the work performed there. But what about the occupational safety and health regulations in this area? Are they still fit for purpose, or have they long been rendered obsolete by the pace of development?

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The reasoning behind the development of a series of standards specifically addressing mental workload is partly that this workload is associated with consequences of strain (such as monotony) and means of measurement (such as interviews, observation, etc.) that differ from those for physical work requirements. The three parts of EN ISO 10075 provide orientation regarding key terms and principles for the design of work and for requirements concerning measurement methods.

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Smart personal protective equipment (PPE) offers a wide range of novel applications and increased levels of protection. The same is true of smart personal protective systems (PPSs) and PPE ensembles . The development of smart technologies is on the rise; however, companies are still struggling to market the products in series production quantities. A joint initiative by research institutions and manufacturers’ federations aims to increase the efficiency of development and conformity assessment of smart PPE and PPSs.

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Sunshine is something very pleasant and is also very important for the human body. It can however also be dangerous, sunburn being the most obvious sign. Even without visible reddening of the skin, however, we add to our personal UV accounts each time we sunbathe, and our skin does not lose sight of the balance. Excessive exposure causes skin cancer, currently the most common form of cancer. Protection against solar radiation is therefore very important, especially at work.

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Wood pellets have become firmly established on the European market as a heating fuel. Until just a few years ago, it was not widely appreciated that dangerous concentrations of carbon monoxide (CO) may arise in pellet stores. KAN saw a need for action in this area, and since 2014 has either launched or provided expert support for a package of measures intended to increase occupational safety.

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