EU-OSHA has published the conclusion of two-year study that tries to predict the effects of digitalisation on occupational safety and health (OSH) in the EU. The findings highlight developments in ICT-enabled technologies, the potential impact of these technologies on the nature and organisation of work, and the challenges and opportunities to OSH that they may bring.
Predictably, the study found that increased monitoring of workers, 24/7 availability, frequent job changes and the management of work by algorithm increases the stress. Human–machine interfaces and the growth in on-line, mobile working will also become a norm.
The following are the other findings of the study:
- Digitalisation and the emergence of new technologies is influencing the nature of jobs and tasks, the sectors and industries that people will work in and even their perception of work. Trends indicate that, by 2025, ICT-enabled technologies will have changed the equipment, tools and systems used to organise, manage and provide products, services and knowledge. Psychosocial and organisational factors are likely to become more important as digitalised working drives changes such as increased workers monitoring, an assumption of 24/7 availability, more frequent job changes and the management of work and workers by algorithms. All this can raise levels of workers’ stress. Increased ergonomic risks, caused by human–machine interfaces and the growth in online, mobile working, and heightened cyber-security risks are also identified as likely outcomes of augmented digitalisation in the workplace.
- Digital technologies also facilitate new forms of employment status, with an increasing number of workers treated (rightly or wrongly) as self-employed and who could fall outside existing OSH regulation, which challenges existing mechanisms for managing and regulating OSH.
The study proposes OSH strategies to counter these as well, such as advanced workplace risk assessments, using the unpreceded opportunities offered by digital technologies (wearables and Big Data), but also taking the new challenges they bring into account. Furthermore, a proactive worker-centred approach in the planning and implementation of digitalisation strategies and a framework to clarify OSH liabilities and responsibilities in relation to new systems and new ways of working is suggested.
This research study’s findings merit serious consideration by digital workforce as well as the policy makers.