Work and workplaces are constantly changing with the introduction of new technologies, substances and work processes, changes in the structure of the workforce and the labour market, and new forms of employment and work organisation. This may give rise to new risks and challenges to workers’ safety and health. These must be anticipated and addressed in order to ensure safe and healthy workplaces in the future.
One of EU-OSHA’s key objectives is the identification and provision of credible, high-quality data of these new and emerging occupational safety and health (OSH) risks that meet the needs of policy-makers and researchers and allow them to take timely and effective action.
To this end, EU-OSHA’s European Risk Observatory gathers and examines data, drawing on research and expert consultations, on trends and underlying factors having an impact on workplaces and workers’ safety and health. It produces discussion papers, reports, summaries and visualisations targeted at policy-makers, social partners, researchers and workplace intermediaries at the EU and national level to provide them with the information and tools necessary to address the identified new and emerging challenges effectively.
The ultimate aim is to raise awareness of how changes of all kinds — technological, societal, political and economic — are likely to affect the safety and health of Europe’s workers, as well to encourage timely prevention of future OSH challenges in order to ensure safe and healthy workplaces of tomorrow.
Identifying emerging risks
EU-OSHA has been running a series of foresight projects intended to evaluate the possible effects of new technologies, new ways of working and societal change on workers’ safety and health. The projects aim not only to identify new risks as they emerge, but also to anticipate changes that could have an impact on workplace safety and health.
EU-OSHA’s foresight projects draw on a variety of methods, including literature reviews, consultation with experts and scenario-building. EU-OSHA organises workshops to gather knowledge, help promote the results and stimulate debate.
This programme of work is intended to inform policy-making and help set priorities for action and research. Foresight studies can have a significant impact on policy; for example, they can help policy-makers to arrive at innovative solutions and they encourage a long-term strategic approach.
Topics already covered by the review series include green jobs and ICT/digitalisation. In addition, a series of sector specific publications on the future of agriculture and forestry look into new and emerging opportunities and risks.
Expert discussion papers
EU-OSHA publishes expert review papers to provoke debate on the future of work and on emerging issues in workplace safety and health among OSH experts and policy-makers throughout the EU. The conclusions reached in these papers often suggest areas for further research or action.
Topics already covered by the review series include crowdsourcing, robotics and performance-enhancing drugs, 3-D printing, monitoring technologies and the e-retail sector.