ILO releases report on workers’ safety and health in workplaces marked by the technological revolution

ILO releases the report ‘Safety and Health at the Heart of the Future of Work: Building on 100 Years of Experience’. The report summarises the ILO’s work on health and safety in the workplace in the past 100 years and provides an overview of challenges and opportunities for workers in the fourth industrial revolution with regards to digitalisation, ICT, automation, robotics, and nanotechnology. Regarding ICT and digitalisation, one key impact on safety and health at work is that technology has been able to replace workers on dangerous jobs. Another impact of ICT is the virtualisation of work that has led to increased flexibility of work organisation and work time arrangements. Technology developments have also blurred the line between work and the rest of individuals’ life. The increasing proliferation of practices such as telework and ICT based mobile work can reduce commuting time and associated stress, but increases psychosocial risks related to lone-working and the possible erosion of barriers between work and personal life. The use of drones is reported to improve workplace safety and health outcomes. It has been already used by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, in the US, to perform inspections when it is unsafe for inspectors to enter, such as a risk of building collapse. Regarding automation and robotics, the report stresses that they can benefit workers by removing them from hazardous environments and by improving automated prevention measures. The challenges encompass increased ergonomic risks from new forms of human-machine interaction, exposure to accidents as a result of a loss of understating or overconfidence in AI infallibility where humans and robots interact closely.