IOSH report focuses on future risks to workplace health and safety

A new report recently launched by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) highlights an uncertain future for workers, exploring potential risks to workplace health and safety.

IOSH report delves into future of workplace health and safety risksThe Towards a safe and healthy future of work report, published in April, explores potential future risks for people’s health, safety and wellbeing at work, including those related to technological advances, climate change and new ways of working.

The world’s largest occupational health and safety body worked with sustainable development experts Arup in the compilation of the report.

The report poses a number of ‘what-if’ questions in order to highlight to governments, businesses and the health and safety profession that action is required to ensure that people’s health and safety is protected in and outside of the workplace.

It comes as an estimated 7,500 people die every day from unsafe or unhealthy working conditions.

Gig economy threatens workplace health and safety standards

Workers in the gig economy, such as delivery drivers, face workplace health and safety risks as traditional legislation fails to cover their role

The report also coincides with the results of a survey IOSH commissioned on online platform-based workers in the gig economy.

Looking at the experiences of delivery workers and those who complete freelance tasks on specific projects, the survey reveals that more than half of these workers endure financial struggles due to their unpredictable income (58%).

The survey, conducted by Opinium, also showed that many workers in the gig economy struggle to care for dependents or take holidays (63%) because of their irregular working patterns, while more than half (54%) say they have low levels of job security.

It’s no surprise then, that 2 in 5 platform workers have experienced stress caused or made worse by their work in the past 12 months, with a third suffering from tiredness or exhaustion.

IOSH says that the struggles of workers in the gig economy are “a real concern” which “requires action.”

Existing employment legislation not sufficient for future risks

The rise of the gig economy is also explored in the Towards a safe and healthy future of work report.

existing health and safety legislation is not sufficient for future workplace health and safety concernsThe report’s authors question whether it could even overtake secure employment as the most common source of primary income. This would lead to fewer social protections for workers, with traditional legislation governing workplace health and safety and other important employment issues being based on traditional employment models.

This means that the many health and safety risks associated with gig work are not addressed by existing legislation, leaving workers vulnerable.

The report also delves into advances in technology, questioning whether they could create new workplace health and safety risks. It also explores the idea of monitoring devices being able to alert managers and employers to a worker’s health condition before they are aware of it.

IOSH says these new and emerging issues highlight “a clear need for strong, robust and modern health and safety regulation which takes account of the changing world of work.”

Warnings about weakening workplace health and safety standards

The report provides a cautious note about the drive for deregulation in countries such as UK, warning that it risks weakening workplace health and safety standards.

James Pomeroy CMIOSH, Global Health and Safety Director at Arup, explains:

“Towards a safe and healthy future of work offers landmark guidance regarding how we can better navigate the landscape we operate in, prioritising risk mitigation by further integrating technologies.”

The report includes a number of key calls to action to tackle these future risks:

  • Government must ratify the International Labour Organization conventions relating to health and safety, to protect and preserve human rights, decent work and worker protection in the face of new and emerging hazards, and to review and update regulations to ensure all new workplace health and safety risks are addressed
  • Businesses must support sustainable development and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, to identify and address existing and emerging health and safety risks, and to include health and safety management in organisational strategies
  • The Health and Safety Profession must contribute to and support the implementation of sustainable work practices, to argue for health and safety to be a central consideration in the development of new technologies and to ensure they keep up to date with changes to be able to continue to advise businesses on workplace health and safety

Meanwhile, IOSH also pledged to work with other global bodies to pursue sustainability, to continue to commission and share research on health and safety matters and to support the OSH profession when it comes to managing new and emerging health and safety risks.

Future offers ‘opportunity’ but also ‘uncertainty’

IOSH’s Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Ruth Wilkinson CMIOSH, said:

“We face the future with a real sense of excitement and opportunity, but also with caution and uncertainty. What we know for certain is that the world of work will continue to change, but we don’t now for sure how this will play out and evolve.

“Our report highlights this, focusing on how new technologies and digitalisation are creating opportunities to improve how people are protected at work but also showing that this can create new hazards and risks to health and safety, all of which need to be managed.

“Among the changes that have already happened is a rise in gig work. To explore these findings further, the results of our survey show people working in the gig economy are really struggling, which is of real concern and requires action.

“This action needs to be collective. We need to work together as a profession with governments, businesses and other professions to manage the changes to work carefully, to design, consult upon, risk assess and implement new technologies sensibly and, crucially, to ensure that people can go home from work safe and well every day.”

Workplace health and safety training

Workplace training can help maintain high health and safety standardsFirst Response Training (FRT) is one of the UK’s largest and leading national training providers.

They deliver a wide and diverse range of training for businesses and organisations across all industry sectors and throughout the UK. Their course range includes training in the fields of health and safetyfirst aidfire safetymanual handlingmental healthfood safetyhealth and social care and more.

Their health and safety training is mapped to UK standards and legislation and follows HSE guidelines. The portfolio includes courses such as Health and Safety, Managing Health and Safety, Risk Assessment, Accident and Incident Investigation, Working at Height, Asbestos Awareness and many more.

An accredited Mindful Employer themselves, FRT’s specialist mental health training courses include Understanding Mental HealthMental Health Awareness in the WorkplaceManaging StressAnxiety and Phobias AwarenessSelf-Harm Awareness and Suicide Awareness.

They can also provide qualified, approved trainers to deliver accredited Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training courses, including the Adult, Youth and Lite versions.

A trainer from FRT says:

“We believe in creating safer working environments with people who care. This is our vision and central to our services. It means providing training that helps to protect people’s physical and mental health, safety and welfare.

“Any life lost at work is obviously one too many, and non-fatal injuries can also have significant, life-altering impacts on workers. Additionally, while stress is not recognised as a diagnosable mental health condition, it can lead to more serious mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, and can also have physiological effects.

“It’s important to recognise the severity of stress and to learn proactive and positive ways for managing, minimising and preventing stress, both in the workplace and in our personal lives and to ensure that we regularly undergo essential training in health, safety and welfare across all organisations and industries and that workplace health and safety programmes continue to evolve to address new and emerging safety risks.”

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to