The Future Risk: Impact of Work on Health, Safety and Wellbeing Report Published By The ‘British Safety Council’
To: All Branches
The British Safety Council (BSC) have notified the CWU Health, Safety & Environment Department of the publication of their new report entitled ‘The Future Risk: Impact of Work on Health, Safety and Wellbeing’, a copy of which is being circulated for the information of Branches, Health and Safety Reps and Regional Health and Safety Forums.
The Report was commissioned by the BSC from ‘Robertson Cooper’ researchers. It reviews the existing literature on this subject and makes a number of recommendations.
The Report considers and examines the latest evidence, mostly from the UK, into how work is likely to change in the future, what the probable impact will be on people’s physical and mental wellbeing and what employers, trade unions, educators and government should do now to prepare for the future.
While providing an overview of the landscape of work, the report explores the changes that employers and employees are likely to experience over the next 20 years. It focuses on the risks of these changes to the health, safety and wellbeing of the workforce.
The main themes explored by the report include the implications of “any time, any place” work. A move away from standard work practices, hours and location etc., which will challenge the relationship between employers and their workforce. The report states that we are currently seeing loyalty between employers and employees decreasing, which means that retaining healthy, high performing employees is even more important and adds that organisations of the future need to trust their employees and manage by praise and reward.
A second theme in the report is the need to build so called “resilience”. The report states that the future world of work will place new pressures and forms of stress on employees. Working alongside intelligent machines and robots, which never stop, outperform humans and are incapable of social interactions, will require an entirely different set of skills. This may strip away everything good work in a traditional social environment offers employees, such as a sense of identity and belonging, as well as social support. That’s why employers will need to introduce specialist training and wellbeing programmes to help their employees gain skills that will build their resilience and help them to cope in new circumstances. [NOTE: So called “resilience” is a controversial approach that has been invading workplaces, with a mission to “toughen up feeble workers” and shrug off the work stress and strain. The Trade Unions are not impressed with an approach like this that wants workers to be more resilient rather than workplaces more healthy].
A third theme in the report is forward-thinking education. New jobs in partially-automated, remote or less secure workplaces may require a greater variety of “soft skills”, including creativity, leadership, flexibility and social skills, as well as skills related to new technology and the ability to collaborate with intelligent machines and robots. The Report recommends that schools and training bodies should start developing such skills and this process should continue beyond the compulsory education system. Such training must teach employees how to look after themselves, as well as how to take responsibility for their own health, safety and wellbeing.
The fourth theme covered in the report is the necessity to update regulatory systems to protect modern workers. The report states that in modern workplaces, where humans will work alongside robots and companies operate across borders, the answer to the question of where ownership of risk lies, that is, who should take responsibility if something goes wrong, will be of crucial importance. As employment contracts are increasingly diffuse (people in the gig economy are often not classified as workers), companies may wish to avoid the costs of sickness absence or liability insurance. The report concludes on this that the government should look at all measures to protect the self-employed and gig economy workers.
Finally, the report concludes that there is a need to understand future risks. These fundamental changes to work and the work environment present huge risks to employers, employees, the economy and the environment. For example, the fast pace of innovation, insecurity around employment status and a drive for efficiency are putting increasing pressure on people, and can lead to stress, which people working remotely may not be able to handle, particularly if they are older. The current understanding of these risks is poor in places. The report, while identifying the risks which have particular relevance to employee health, safety and wellbeing, calls for further research into this area.
In a statement launching the report Matthew Holder, head of campaigns at the British Safety Council, said that 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.
See attached copy of the report for your information.
National Health, Safety & Environment Officer