Oct 24th 2022
The Future of Work: Safe, Healthy, And Productive Work For All
In recent years, there have been significant changes in the way work is done. With advances in digital technology and changes in employment patterns, several factors may affect workplace safety in the future. CSIRO's Workplace Safety Futures report explores how six megatrends may impact workplace health and safety (WHS) and workers' compensation in Australia in the coming years.
The megatrends identified in the report are the rise of the gig economy, the growth of robotics and automation; the changing nature of work; the increasing prevalence of mental health issues; the ageing workforce; and climate change. Each of these megatrends presents challenges and opportunities for WHS and workers' compensation.
By understanding how these trends may impact workplace safety in the future, we can be better prepared to manage risks and ensure a safe working environment for all.
With the rise of the gig economy, more and more people are finding work through short-term contracts or online remote work. While this can offer greater flexibility and freedom, it can also present challenges in managing health and safety risks.
For example, gig workers may not have access to the same health and safety training as traditional employees and may not be aware of the risks associated with their work. Furthermore, gig work often involves working in unfamiliar environments or using new technologies, which can increase the likelihood of accidents or injuries.
As such, it is important for gig workers to be aware of the potential risks involved in their work and to take steps to protect themselves. This may include being careful when working in unfamiliar environments, following new technologies' safety procedures, and staying up-to-date on health and safety training.
One of the most significant changes currently taking place in the workplace is the increasing role of automation. This trend is being driven by advances in technology, which are making it possible for machines to perform tasks that human beings have traditionally done.
While this shift has some potential benefits, such as increased efficiency and productivity, it also introduces new risks that must be carefully managed. While this can offer some advantages in terms of efficiency and productivity, it also brings new risks that need to be managed. For example, if a machine breaks down or is not used correctly, it can pose a serious hazard to workers.
Additionally, as more data is collected and processed by automated systems, there is a risk of data breaches and privacy violations. As such, businesses must take steps to understand the risks associated with automation and put in place appropriate controls to mitigate them.
Only by doing so will they be able to realise the full benefits of this transformative technology.
Increasing prevalence of mental health issues
In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the importance of mental health in the workplace. However, despite this increased awareness, workplace stress and mental health issues remain major problems in Australia. According to a recent report, one in five people experienced mental health issues in the last 12 months.
This is a significant increase from previous years, and it is likely that new and intensifying uses of digital technologies are partly to blame. The constant exposure to email, social media and other digital platforms can lead to feelings of anxiety and isolation, which can aggravate existing mental health problems. However, mental health policies and digital solutions can also be used to manage workplace stress and mental health issues.
For example, there are now many apps and online resources that can help employees to identify early signs of stress or anxiety and take steps to address them. In addition, employers can use digital technologies to promote healthy work-life balance among their employees. Using these opportunities, we can address the rising workplace stress and mental health issues in Australia.
Sedentary behaviour and chronic illness
The time people spend in front of screens has increased dramatically in recent years, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down. With more and more adults working sedentary jobs and children spending hours glued to electronic devices, obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic illnesses are also rising.
These health concerns can have a significant impact on workplace safety and productivity. For example, employees who are obese or suffering from chronic illnesses are more likely to experience musculoskeletal problems, which can lead to absenteeism and lost productivity. In addition, these conditions can also increase the risk of accidents and injuries on the job.
As such, employers need to be aware of the risks associated with rising screen time and sedentary behaviour. By encouraging employees to be more active and to take breaks from screens throughout the day, employers can help create a safer and more productive workplace.
The average age of Australia's workforce is increasing along with the ageing of the population as a whole, and older Australians have to stay in the workforce longer. While this is positive in terms of extending people's working lives, it does present some challenges from a health and safety perspective. Older workers may be more susceptible to injury and find it more challenging to recover from an injury than younger workers.
They may also be more likely to develop chronic health conditions that can impact their ability to do their job safely. As a result, employers need to be aware of these risks and implement strategies to manage them. This may include providing more training and support for older workers or adjusting the workplace to reduce the risk of injury.
In addition, employers may need to make special accommodations for older workers, such as providing ergonomic furniture or flexible work hours. However, the ageing workforce can be a valuable asset to any organisation with proper planning and management.
Working from home
Working from home can present some unique safety concerns that workers need to be aware of. One of the most important things to consider is how to stay safe when working alone. This can be a challenge if you are used to working in an office with other people around. If you are sick or injured, there may be no one nearby to provide assistance.
It is important to have a plan in place for dealing with emergencies, such as having a list of emergency contacts who can be called upon if needed. Additionally, taking breaks throughout the day is important and ensuring you are not working too long hours without taking time for yourself.
Another safety concern when working from home is domestic violence. If you live with someone abusive, working from home can give them more opportunities to commit violence. It is important to have a safety plan in place in case of an emergency, such as knowing where you can go if you need to leave your home quickly.
Finally, working from home can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. It is important to stay connected with friends and family members and to make time for hobbies and activities outside of work. By being aware of these potential safety concerns, workers can ensure that they are taking steps to protect themselves while working from home.
But while there are challenges associated with the changing world of work, there are also opportunities. New technology can also be used to improve safety in the workplace. Gone are the days when a paper-based safety management system was enough to keep workers safe. Today, companies need to find a way to transition to a more digital approach that can take advantage of the latest technology.
SafetyDocs is proud to be working with SafetyCulture to provide a combination of a technology solution and paper-based safety management systems to assist companies in making this transition. With SafetyCulture's leading-edge apps and SafetyDocs' experience in managing safety documentation, we are confident that we can help your company make the transition to the future of work safely and efficiently.
Author - Craig Cruickshank is the HSEQ Manager and Senior Technical Advisor at SafetyDocs by SafetyCulture.
Craig comes from a construction and environmental background, with experience in both the private and public sectors and is passionate about making health and safety information easy to find and understand for everyone.
Learn more about Craig's work on LinkedIn
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