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Joint Nordic report: Labour inspectorates must prepare for new occupational health and safety risks

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 15.9.2020 11.03
Press release

The first joint Nordic report on how future of work drivers affect working life and how changes in working life affect labour inspection was published today.

A great number of studies have been conducted on the future of work but they have not focused on occupational health and safety and labour inspection until now.  The report takes a closer look at the topic, providing labour inspectorates with practical recommendations on how to prepare for the future.

These practical recommendations form the basis for the further development of the labour inspectorates’ ability to respond to occupational safety and health challenges as the world of work changes.

The report was published today.

Future of Work drivers also play a major role in occupational health and safety

Globalisation and technological advances have a huge effect on how, where and when work is carried out. Demographic change is leading to a weaker dependency ratio as the working-age population shrinks. Production processes and consumer behaviour are changing because of environmental and climate change. These drivers jointly create new occupations and transform others, as well as change conditions of employment and work process. This in turn cause new risks and old risks emerge in new contexts, which will require new approaches and methods in labour inspection.

Technological advances bring about new and, in some respects, still unknown risks. For example, the long-term impact of smart wearables on health is not known and psychosocial risks of constant monitoring and working in home offices is not well studied. Non-communicable diseases seem to take a more significant role in work life.

Occupational and work-related diseases in female-dominated fields, such as healthcare and social welfare, require that inspection pay particular attention to occupational health and safety issues related to women.  In addition, the changes in the ways of working and the concept of working time, for example, require that labour inspection be reformed and better targeted. As far as young people are concerned, the whole concept of gainful employment has changed.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how infectious diseases can affect occupational health. Safe and healthy working conditions for front-line workers can only be guaranteed by pre-assessing potential risks and events and by providing adequate protective equipment. In future, more attention must be paid to pandemic preparedness in occupational health and safety, too.

The report was prepared by the Nordic Future of Work Group, which consists of six working life and occupational health and safety experts from different Nordic countries.

Päivi Mattila-Wiro, tel. +358 295 163 467, [email protected]