Report explores impact of emerging technologies and platforms on WHS and workers’ compensation in the next 20 years

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A new study revealed that new technologies and ways of working will introduce new challenges for work health and safety.

Safe Work Australia has partnered with CSIRO’s Data61 to produce a report examining the impact of emerging technologies and platforms on work health and safety and workers’ compensation over the next 20- years.

The Workplace Safety Futures report explores how six megatrends underpinned by advances in digital technologies and shifting employment patterns may affect WHS and workers’ compensation in Australia in the coming years. These megatrends range from advancing automation and the gig economy to rising screen time and an ageing workforce.

The six megatrends referred to in the report include the extending reach of automated systems and robotics; rising workplace stress and mental health issues; rising screen time, sedentary behaviour and chronic illness; blurring the boundaries between work and home; the gig and entrepreneurial economy; and an ageing workforce.

Joanna Horton, Research Analyst at Data61 and co-author of the report said workplaces have had significant structural and demographic changes along with digital technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence and augmented reality entering the workforce in greater numbers.

“This will have implications for workers’ compensation and the WHS environment in Australia and may require fresh approaches to managing risks and supporting sick or injured workers.

“The report investigates plausible future scenarios to provide policymakers and businesses with the insights they need to ensure the long-term effectiveness of Australian WHS and workers’ compensation systems, in the face of rapid change,” said Ms. Horton.

Physical workplace injury is predicted to fall by 11 percent by 2030 as robots and drones replace dull, dirty and dangerous tasks. However, the increasing use of robots in the workplace raises questions about whether current ways of identifying, assessing and controlling WHS risks will be sufficient in addressing potential new risks that may arise.

The report also examines the impact of the rising gig economy on WHS and workers’ compensation.

Safe Work Australia Chair, Diane Smith-Gander said digital technologies will definitely bring a significant change the nature of work in the future.

“It’s important that WHS and workers’ compensation frameworks anticipate and adapt to the risks and opportunities presented by this future. Let’s use this report as an opportunity to start the conversation among safety experts and policymakers,” she said.

“Safe Work Australia is already looking at ways the findings can inform future policy development and draw attention to areas where new guidance, research and data might be needed.”

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