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Managing the risks in the brave, new world of work

The type of health and safety risks that we face in the workplace is changing at breakneck speed as new technology revolutionises the way we carry out our jobs and we continue to shift away from traditional working practices.

According to a new report by the British Safety Council (BSC), employers must assess the risks posed by new technology and familiarise themselves, and their employees, with the dangers, as well as thinking about what sort of skills people will need to do their jobs in the future. Entitled the Future Risk Report, it highlights the need for greater awareness of the risks that we will face in our workplaces in the future as employees and hi-tech machinery, such as intelligent machines and robots, work together more closely than ever before. The report suggests that legislation should be updated to reflect these changes, as well as posing timely questions about where responsibility lies when things go wrong in automated working environments.

It’s estimated that 250,000 public sector jobs will be replaced by automation during the next 15 years alone. This, together with the growth of the ‘gig’ economy - which is when workers are paid for each job or ‘gig’ that they do, rather than receiving a regular wage – has prompted the BSC to highlight the increased risk of employee stress and mental ill-health. It’s thought that ‘up-skilling’ employees by offering them specialist training to build their resilience against the rise of new technologies could be part of the solution.

Responding to the report, Robyn Newman of MNA Group Ltd, said: “In so many sectors, the way people work is changing rapidly and this latest report by the BSC highlights the urgent need for employers to take a more strategic view of the future health and safety risks that they and their employees could face.”

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