Tuesday, August 24, 2010


IWS Documented News Service
Institute for Workplace Studies----------------- Professor Samuel B. Bacharach
School of Industrial & Labor Relations-------- Director, Institute for Workplace Studies
Cornell University
16 East 34th Street, 4th floor----------------------
Stuart Basefsky
New York, NY 10016 -------------------------------Director, IWS News Bureau


European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditons (Dublin Foundation)

European Working Conditons Observatory (EWCO)

EU Level


Portable computing and communication devices and their impact on workers’ health [23 July 2010]



A new European Commission report (below) examines the increasing use of portable computing and communication devices, and its impact on the health of EU workers. It attempts to identify the new and changing risks to health and safety, covering issues such as working environment and how technology encourages work during free time. It also examines the main stressors and ergonomic risks, recommending new guidelines or standards rather than new legislation to protect workers.


A new European Commission report, The increasing use of portable computing and communication devices and its impact on the health of EU workers (below), provides an overview of the technology currently available and its uses, and looks at the main stressors and ergonomic risks to EU workers.



European Commission

Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities


The increasing use of portable computing and communication devices and its  impact on the health of EU workers


[full-text, 124 pages]


Table of Content

Executive summary__________________________________________________________5


I Methodology_____________________________________________________________11

II Overview of the technology and its use________________________________________12

Summary _______________________________________________________________12

Introduction _____________________________________________________________13

1. Definitions ____________________________________________________________14

2. Status quo analysis______________________________________________________16

2.1 Description of portable computing and communication systems _______________16

2.1.1 Types __________________________________________________________16

2.1.2 Functionality, characteristics and ergonomic features ____________________17

2.2 Description of work with portable systems ________________________________19

2.2.1 Types of work using portable systems ________________________________19

2.2.2 The work environment of mobile eWorkers ____________________________22

2.3 Survey of the use of portable systems among the working population ___________26

2.3.1 Extent of, and increase in, use_______________________________________26

2.3.2 Categories and numbers of workers affected ___________________________31

2.3.3 Typical activities and tasks _________________________________________36

2.3.4 Types of work with portable devices and possible OSH risks and OSH

management problems _________________________________________________37

2.3.5 How portable systems influence the boundary between work hours and private


2.3.6 Possible evolution of the technology and future use of portable systems______40

2.4 Technological development and nanotechnology ___________________________41

2.5 Work of tomorrow – future working patterns ______________________________44

2.6 Foreseeable future use of portable systems ________________________________45

2.7 Discussion and conclusions ____________________________________________47

III Assessment of the OSH risks _______________________________________________50

1. Psychosocial risk factors _________________________________________________50

Summary _____________________________________________________________50

Introduction ___________________________________________________________50

Deduction of psychosocial risk factors and resources ___________________________52

1.1 Investigation into specific psychosocial resources and risk factors______________55

1.1.1 Work organization________________________________________________55

1.1.2 Work content____________________________________________________60

1.1.3 Social relations at work____________________________________________61

1.1.4 Operational and societal conditions __________________________________64

1.1.5 Personal influences _______________________________________________64

1.2 Risks of illness and accidents deriving from psychosocial stressors_____________65

1.3 Psychosocial implications for the proposed future development in work using

portable computing and communication devices_______________________________65

1.4 Demographic effects _________________________________________________66

1.5 Expert interviews ____________________________________________________67

1.6 Conclusions ________________________________________________________68

2. Ergonomic risk factors___________________________________________________70

Summary _____________________________________________________________70

Introduction ___________________________________________________________70

2.1 The effects of biomechanical workload___________________________________72

2.2 Effects of the visual interface design_____________________________________75

2.3 Effects of excessive noise and vibration levels _____________________________76

2.4 Effects of cognitive load and multiple task situations ________________________76

2.5 Effects of Ageing ____________________________________________________78

2.6 Discussion and Conclusions ___________________________________________79

IV Implications for the Management of OSH_____________________________________80

1. Difficulties in applying “traditional” approaches to OSH management _____________80

2. Exclusion from collective agreements due to mobility __________________________82

3. Consequences and recommendations for practical OSH management ______________83

4. Conclusions ___________________________________________________________84

V Implications for regulation and enforcement ___________________________________85

Summary _______________________________________________________________85

1. Challenges and possible approaches for legislation and enforcement_______________85

1.1 OSH Framework Directive 89/391/EEC __________________________________86

1.2 Possibly relevant EU regulatory framework _______________________________88

1.3 Directive 90/270/EEC (work with display screen equipment) _________________88

2. Options for legislation and enforcement _____________________________________93

VI Discussion _____________________________________________________________95

VII Conclusions____________________________________________________________97

Bibliography ______________________________________________________________99

Literature _______________________________________________________________99

Legislation _____________________________________________________________110

List of Photographs ______________________________________________________111

List of Figures __________________________________________________________112

List of Tables ___________________________________________________________113

List of Abbreviations _____________________________________________________114




This information is provided to subscribers, friends, faculty, students and alumni of the School of Industrial & Labor Relations (ILR). It is a service of the Institute for Workplace Studies (IWS) in New York City. Stuart Basefsky is responsible for the selection of the contents which is intended to keep researchers, companies, workers, and governments aware of the latest information related to ILR disciplines as it becomes available for the purposes of research, understanding and debate. The content does not reflect the opinions or positions of Cornell University, the School of Industrial & Labor Relations, or that of Mr. Basefsky and should not be construed as such. The service is unique in that it provides the original source documentation, via links, behind the news and research of the day. Use of the information provided is unrestricted. However, it is requested that users acknowledge that the information was found via the IWS Documented News Service.

Stuart Basefsky                   
Director, IWS News Bureau                
Institute for Workplace Studies 
Cornell/ILR School                        
16 E. 34th Street, 4th Floor             
New York, NY 10016                        
Telephone: (607) 255-2703                
Fax: (607) 255-9641                       
E-mail: smb6@cornell.edu                  



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