Global judgements and ideas.
I have been awarded funding from the European Safety and Health Agency (EU-OSHA), with the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) and Milieu, Brussels.
Using (digital) technologies for automation processes has always been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, positive effects for workers are intended, for example by removing them from hazardous environments, optimising workload or allowing more task variety. On the other hand, this goal may not always be achieved and a number of potential challenges can occur like the loss of situation awareness, overreliance or possible loss of skills.
The intended benefits of automation as well as the challenges are both related to which and how many functions are automated. The appearance of new technologies as well as their rapid changes have led to a revival of the debate on the automation potential of jobs and tasks as well as their consequences.
A focus on tasks rather than jobs is a valid approach as automation technologies support or substitute individual functions in specific tasks. Therefore, a reflection on opportunities and challenges associated with automation as well as the assessment of implications for occupational safety and health (OSH) should approach task and technology characteristics likewise.
The project lasts from Sep 2020 – July 2023. Research involves interviewing fieldwork, literature review, and case studies which inform a series of Policy Briefs and Reports on these topics. I am heading the sections on AI based systems and so will be looking at predominantly at support for cognitive tasks where no physical handling of objects or persons is required and modern information and communications technologies (ICT) are often deployed.
The entities can range from desktop computer and mobile devices (smartphone, tablet), to wearables like smartwatches or smart glasses. Many of these technologies have found their way into everyday lives, not only at many workplaces but also into private lives. The scope of cognitive functions ICT is able to support broadens steadily. Along with displaying information, innovative systems are easily capable of monitoring actions as well as providing context-sensitive information.