Unlocking the Future of Occupational Safety

The advancement and increasing accessibility of digital tools and technologies have led to the emergence of digital OSH monitoring systems. These can further prevent worker exposure to risks by providing comprehensive and accurate data unavailable via traditional OSH monitoring methods.

This policy brief, issued by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), highlights the importance of a clear definition of digital OSH monitoring systems. It also discusses their benefits and potential challenges to employers and employees alike, underscoring the importance of workforce participation in their adoption and implementation.

Digital OSH monitoring systems use digital technology, often in combination with other technologies, to provide data that can help prevent and/or minimise harm and promote occupational safety and health. The introduction of these systems presents significant opportunities to support OSH processes and enables employers and workers to save resources, including time and money, and reduce stress.

These systems provide comprehensive and accurate data that may not have been collected with traditional OSH monitoring systems. This data enables the identification and assessment of risks that may have been otherwise overlooked. This is particularly important, says the brief, considering that research based on ESENER data has shown that one of the key reasons for not conducting workplace assessments is the lack of major identified problems or already known risks.

However, the importance of OSH monitoring for both employers and workers highlights the need for a clear and specific definition of new OSH monitoring systems. The definition should strike a balance between comprehensiveness and specificity, while also attempting to not become obsolete too quickly. This is particularly important in light of the rapid development of digital technologies and OSH monitoring systems, says the brief.

Despite this, it is important to ensure that the workforce participates in setting the goals of the OSH monitoring systems and that the OSH monitoring systems are tailored to each workplace – that they are adapted rather than transplanted. It is also crucial to train and inform managers and workers on the correct use of these systems.

Finally, digital OSH monitoring systems, both proactive and reactive, are meant to increase workers’ control over their health and work. They help empower them and reduce harm, including that from stress, and can be a good equaliser, addressing the needs of different groups of workers. However, they also present various risks and challenges in terms of physical and mental health and safety, as the report elaborates.

Therefore, the policy brief concludes that legal and policy frameworks regulating these areas should keep pace with the fast development of digital tools and the implications of their use in the workplace, to better assess the impact of digitalisation on workers’ rights, working conditions and OSH.

June 2023