As part of EU-OSHA’s foresight project, a workshop on “New and emerging risks associated with ICT” with EU-OSHA’s Focal Points focused on the potential impact of digitalisation on occupational safety and health (OSH). The workshop consisted of a range of presentations, plenary discussions and group exercises based on four future scenarios that can be used as a tool to develop robust policies and strategies addressing the OSH challenges identified.
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Alert and sentinel systems allow the detection of new or emerging work-related diseases and are useful to complement the official figures of occupational diseases. Literature about the limited number of alert and sentinel approaches in place has been reviewed by EU-OSHA to weigh up their benefits.
They can help target workplace interventions and prevention.
An EU-OSHA foresight project is looking at the potential impact on OSH of rapid developments in information and communication technologies (ICT), including artificial intelligence and robotics, and the resulting impact on occupational safety and health (OSH). This project aims to provide EU decision-makers, Member State governments, trade unions and employers with the information they need on changes in ICT, their impact on the nature and location of work, and the emerging challenges to OSH that they may bring.
The project comprises three work packages:
- Work Package 1 aims to identify key trends and drivers that could lead to new and emerging OSH risks associated with ICT and changes in work location.
- Based on the key trends and drivers from Work Package 1, Work Package 2 aims to develop possible and plausible scenarios for what workplaces will be like in 2025, to illustrate the future OSH challenges associated with developments in ICT and work location.
- Work Package 3 aims at promoting the findings of the project using the scenarios developed in Work Package 2 to explore with policy-makers possible strategies to address the OSH challenges identified in the scenarios.
These activities should contribute to ensuring safe and healthy workplaces in the future, in line with smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in the EU.
Follow-up studies look further at important areas and challenges highlighted by the project.
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.
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.
Technology is playing an ever-increasing role in the workplace and is changing the way people work. This can be good for workers, but it may also result in new and emerging occupational safety and health (OSH) risks. EU-OSHA has published two new expert reviews examining the use of specific types of technology in the workplace: one discusses 3D printing (additive manufacturing) and potential new risks in terms of liability, materials used, flexible ways of working, and monotony on the job.
EU-OSHA has published a report under its current foresight activity. The project is looking at how changes in information and communication technologies and work location will affect occupational safety and health (OSH).
The report presents the results of the first phase of the project. The aim was to identify and describe key trends and drivers of these changes. The findings will be used in phase 2 to develop a set of scenarios describing possible and plausible visions of the world of work in 2025 and the associated OSH challenges.