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Impact of robotics on occupational safety and health


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Presentation by EU-OSHA Director Christa Sedlatschek at the Informal meeting of employment and social policy ministers on 19 – 20/07/2018 - Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO)
Vienna, Austria Center Vienna

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Impact of robotics on occupational safety and health

  1. 1. Impact of robotics on occupational safety and health (OSH) Impact of robotics on occupational safety and health (OSH) Christa Sedlatschek, Director European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA)
  2. 2. Robotics - What is changing?  Autonomous systems  Artificial Intelligence  Internet of Things & People  Variety of tasks automated  In all sectors  Robots becoming “uncaged” Worldwide annual sales of robotic devices (International Federation of Robotics) 219/07/2018 + 29% in 2014
  3. 3. Opportunities for OSH  Removes workers from hazardous jobs  Improves the quality of work  Human-enhancement technologies – Access to work for a diverse workforce  Opportunities for OSH training  Better monitoring worker’s safety and health conditions  Targeted prevention, inspection efficiency and compliance 319/07/2018
  4. 4. OSH challenges – Safety  Proximity of the robots to the workers – Collisions with the robots – Risks from the equipment used by the robots – Accidents expected to increase in the short-term  Unforeseen situations and uses – Possible to foresee ALL situations at the design stage? – Incidents outside normal operations e.g. maintenance – Workers’ acceptance and sabotage  Cyber-security 419/07/2018
  5. 5. Ergonomics and cognitive challenges  Human-Machine Interfaces – Driven by technical feasibility and market, not by users‘ needs  “Sitting is the new smoking”  Overload … – Cognitive overload due to increasing technological complexity – Work intensification as the tasks that remain are repetitive  versus Underload as reliability on technologies increases – Monotonous work, loss of workers’ skills, errors, accidents  Polarisation towards skills 519/07/2018
  6. 6. Organisational and psychosocial challenges  When your peers are robots – Virtualisation of relationships, loss of social support – Loss of motivation and poorer job satisfaction  Permanent monitoring of workers  Performance pressure  Lack of transparency of decisions and loss of job control  Ethics and the human-robot team 619/07/2018
  7. 7. Conclusions  Need for adapted OSH strategies – Risk profiles and Risk Assessment – and opportunities! – User-centred Prevention-through-design approach – Workers’ involvement in the deployment of robotics – Training for all actors – incl. OSH training for designers  Research and innovation in robotics & AI – Collaboration between academics, public bodies, industry, social partners and governments – Fostering the quality of work – More focus on the impact on mental health 719/07/2018
  8. 8. Conclusions (continued)  Need for prompt and right governance – Identify regulatory gaps – Code of Conduct? Standards? Regulation? – Establish an ethical framework for robotics and AI – Rules to clarify liability, responsibilities and obligations – Set a level playing field and guarantee OSH standards  The EU to take the lead and sway the balance towards opportunities of robotics! 819/07/2018
  9. 9.  Foresight “New and emerging OSH risks associated with ICT by 2025”  Expert articles series – Published: Robotics; Additive manufacturing; E-retail; Workers’ monitoring technologies; Crowdworking; Performance-enhancing drugs – Coming-up: AI; Exoskeletons; Virtual reality  OSH Overview on Digitalisation in 2020-22 EU-OSHA’s work on robotics 919/07/2018 Find out more at:
  10. 10. Thank you for your attention! Christa Sedlatschek, Director European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) Phone: +34 944 358 400 Email: