EU study predicts future health and safety risks
Worker stress levels are set to rise with increased monitoring of staff, frequent job changes and management by algorithm, according to a new study.
A new report by EU-OSHA finds that while employees are less likely to work in traditionally hazardous environments in the future, stress levels may rise due to the digitalisation of many working practices.
The study, which looks at how occupational safety and health in Europe is set to change by 2025, warns increased monitoring of workers, an assumption of being available 24/7, frequent job changes and management by algorithm will raise stress levels amongst employees.
In addition, it also predicts increased ergonomic risks, caused by human/machine interfaces, a growth in mobile working and cyber-security risks.
“Robotics and automation, commonly in manufacturing but also in the care industry, have improved OSH through reduced exposure of workers to hazardous environments and ergonomic hazards,” the report states.
“However, there are also hazards associated with workers interacting with automated equipment, particularly collaborative robots, such as collisions, increased work pace and increased cognitive load. Improved electronic monitoring makes it possible to alert workers to the presence of hazardous substances.
“Work-related stress is widespread as a result of extensive job and financial insecurity, poor work-life balance, the lack of predictability in the grey economy, work intensification in some jobs and task deprivation in others. Intrusive workplace electronic monitoring leads to stress and overwork,” the report adds.
“Some workers may also suffer from stress due to a lack of autonomy and job variation.”
The report also warns that increased digitalisation will lead to new forms of employment status, with more workers being treated as self-employed and who could fall outside existing health and safety regulation.
In order to meet the challenges ahead, it recommends advanced workplace risk assessments, using the unpreceded opportunities offered by digital technologies, like wearables and Big Data, and a proactive worker-centred approach in the planning and implementation of digitalisation strategies.
The report – Foresight on new and emerging occupational safety and health risks associated with digitalisation by 2025 – is available on the EU-OSHA website.