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The Future Of Work: What Will Health & Safety Look Like?

Posted: 23/02/2018

A new report from the British Safety Council (BSC) has revealed that employers and employees both need to improve their understanding of evolving risks to health, safety and wellbeing in the workplace in the future.

The Future risk: Impact of work on health, safety and wellbeing publication examines issues like the impact of automation and the gig economy. The former will likely be more fundamental in the future than is commonly understood and it’s been predicted that 11 million jobs will be lost in the forthcoming 20 years here in the UK.

And where gig workers are concerned, basic human needs like economic security, social identity and a sense of belonging may be compromised – so discussions need to focus on readying the workforce for the future, rather than looking at what’s going on right now.

Previous research, this time from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, recently revealed that just 53 per cent of gig workers received a full induction when starting work for their particular company. And discrepancies were revealed between how health and safety matters are handled for permanent and non-permanent workers – so it certainly does seem as though more must be done in this regard.

Themes explored in the BSC report include the need to build resilience. In the future, new pressures will undoubtedly present themselves, as will different forms of stress, on workers.

Automated robots and intelligent machines will outperform humans, never stop working and cannot interact socially – so working alongside these will need a new set of skills. So specialist training and wellbeing programmes will be required as well.

Understanding future risks was also included in the paper, with changes to the work environment presenting big risks to the economy, employees, employers and the environment. The fast pace of innovation, efficiency drives and insecurity relating to employment status is putting increasing pressure on members of staff, often leading to stress – and those working remotely may not be able to cope with this, especially if they’re older.

“We know that work is changing, which is why there is currently so much conversation about the future of work. However, we know less about the risks this might bring to the health, wellbeing and safety of employees, so it’s a challenge for businesses to prepare for this,” Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at the University of Manchester, Cary Cooper commented.

Head of Campaigns at the BSC, Matthew Holder made further remarks, saying: “At a time when work is rapidly changing, whether through technological innovation or types of employment, there is an urgent need to have a more strategic view on what research says about the future of work and risk, and how these two issues are related.”

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