If you don’t believe that office work is bad for your health you should try the so-called “compulsory posture”, a kind of corset which imitates the unnatural position adopted by most people when they’re sitting in front of a computer. It is only one of countless experimentation points in the German Work Protection Exhibition (or DASA) in Dortmund. These four simple letters conceal one of the largest, most innovative and exciting museums in Germany. Visitors walk through the various sections of the museum as if they are travelling in a time machine. Everything is so deceptively real: the early industrial spinning machine, the building crane, the aeroplane cockpit, the surveyor’s office. The message is clear. People at work are liable to injury and can only take a certain amount of strain. The museum vividly reveals the risks of the workplace and also shows how to avoid them. No expense has been spared. Infra-red headphones in several languages ensure that visitors get all the information they need at the correct point. Interactive computer screens, videos and simulators of every type invite them to try their skills and make experiments. You can walk through a sound tunnel, for example, and listen to the various levels of noise from bird song to a deafening pneumatic hammer. Only then do you fully realise just how dangerous to the health everyday noise can be. Or you can witness the stressful activity in a newspaper editorial office and see the print being set or the delivery boy at work. Each new room - a construction site, a hospital, the central control room of a coal driven power station – throws up new scenarios and suggests ways to improve the world of work to fit the needs of humans.
DASA was built by the National Authority for Work Protection and Health in 1993. Since then it has been extended several times and now comprises an overall exhibition area of 13,000 square metres providing visitors with a multimedia panorama of working conditions from the start of the Industrial Revolution to the present day. The aim is to point out the importance of giving people a safe and healthy working environment in the future. This is achieved by encouraging visitors to become actively involved, using expensive and clever technology, putting on regular special exhibitions and, last not least, offering guided tours to children, young people, adults and specialist professional groups. In 1996 DASA was awarded the title of the “best new industrial and technical museum in Europe”.