Future Workplace - Future Risks

Future Workplace - Future Risks

14th March 2018

A new report by the British Safety Council (BSC) examines the health and safety risks of the future workplace and encourages employers to assess and enhance their own and their employees’ understanding of the dangers presented by new technologies and the skills that will be required in the workplaces of the future.  We all know that developments in technology and progress in materials is rapidly changing the way in which we work and live and the Future Risk Report highlights the need for people practitioners and business, trade unions, educators, regulators and governments to fully comprehend the changing risks of the future workplace.

The BSC has even gone so far as to call for the regulatory systems that are in place to protect workers to be updated to mitigate risks arising from future technology, especially in cases where employees and machines are expected to work together closely – this includes the physicals risks that may arise from working in close proximity to robots!  It seems that the future is here.

Automation is likely to replace up to a quarter of a million public sector jobs over the coming decade or so and the way in which we work will change accordingly.  We’re already hearing about the “gig” economy and the BSC urges the government to do more through the Industrial Strategy to allow gig workers legal, social and employment protections and rights. 

The report also raises the question of where responsibility and liability lie when automation in the workplace goes wrong, suggesting that research is necessary in order to enhance people’s physical and mental wellbeing.  Employers and researchers should be sharing best practice on quality jog design in order to create and retain positive relationships between employers and employees as we move away from the more traditional ways of working.  Organisations should adopt policies to ensure that work is not only healthy and safe, but rewarding too, which would improve both health and productivity.  Employees stress or mental ill health due to the pressures of modern work is on the increase and working with technology like intelligent machines and robots could bring added stresses as they outperform human workers.

In order to counteract this it’s recommended that employers introduce specialist training and wellbeing programmes to help their workers to gain skills to build resilience to these new technologies.  There is currently an urgent need to take a more strategic viewpoint on what research has revealed about the future of work and risks and how these two issues are related.  Work is changing across all sectors, though more rapidly in some than in others.  While the changes in work are apparent and obvious in most cases, the changes in the risks involved may not be and businesses are being encouraged to prepare for these risks and think about what they may bring in terms of the health, wellbeing and safety of their employees.