|SafeWork Australia and CSIRO have jointly developed an extensive report that explores the impact of emerging trends on Workplace Health & Safety (WHS) and workers’ compensation over the next 20 years.
The report – entitled ‘Workplace Safety Futures’ – particularly cites the significant impact that digital technologies, including automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR), are having as they become more common in the workplace.
Employment patterns and structures are also shifting with the introduction of freelance task-based work. These changes are happening within the broader context of Australia’s ageing workforce and rising levels of stress and chronic disease.
SafeWork Australia is already utilising the findings from this report to inform future policy development and highlight areas where new guidance, research and data might be needed.
This report considers the impact of six megatrends on WHS and workers’ compensation. As digital technologies advance in capability and decrease in cost, they are likely to enter the work environment in greater numbers and in a wider variety of roles. Major advances in automation, AI, digitisation, AR and virtual reality (VR), cyber-physical systems and other technologies are on the horizon.
Enabled by technological developments, the worldwide growth of peer-to-peer (P2P) platforms such as Uber, Airtasker and Gobi, has the potential to fundamentally shift employment patterns and structures toward a ‘gig economy’ where freelance task-based work is common. This is occurring in the context of an Australian workforce facing a number of key changes: a transition to professional service-based employment; the end of the mining boom; and the demographic shift towards an older workforce.
The megatrends identified in the study are:
1. The costs of automated technologies are likely to continue falling and the capabilities and widespread deployment are likely to continue rising.
2. Australia’s workforce is registering increasing levels of stress and mental health issues. New and intensifying uses of digital technologies in the workplace may exacerbate problems with mental health and stress, but technology also presents opportunities to manage these issues.
3. The amount of daily screen time has grown for both adults and children and there is a continued drift away from manual jobs towards sedentary jobs. Rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and other chronic illnesses continue to rise.
4. An increasingly large share of Australians are entering into work arrangements that enable them to work from home or other locations, blurring the boundaries between work and home life.
5. The ‘gig’ economy refers to freelance task-based work organised through online platforms or ‘apps’. It changes the way we work away from traditional employment models. Although the Australian gig economy is still relatively small, at least some growth is anticipated.
6. The average age of Australia’s workforce is increasing along with the ageing of the population as a whole, and older Australians are having to stay in the workforce longer.
The full report can be downloaded from http://www.data61.csiro.au/en/Our-Work/Future-Cities/Planning-sustainable-infrastructure/workplacesafety