What occupational risks by the year 2040?
How will occupational risks evolve in the next decades? That is the question posed by INRS through its foresight activity which aims to explore possible future scenarios and their consequences on occupational health. The Scanning and Foresight Unit, reporting to General Management, endeavours to promote such reflections through actions conducted both in-house and via external and international collaboration.
For several years now, INRS has been doing foresight to determine scenarios for the evolution of occupational health and safety over the next decades.
Three such exercises have been conducted up to now:
2013: Use of physical assistance robots by the year 2030
While these new types of industrial, service or personal care robots present a real opportunity for people at work, they also bring new risks for the health and safety of operators. Therefore, our experts have created different possible scenarios about how they may evolve and analysed their potential impact on occupational safety and health.
2014: Development of nanomaterials by 2030 and their consequences on occupational safety and health in small enterprises in France
This exercise was conducted in cooperation with French partners, the Swiss Accident Insurance Fund (Suva) and the International Social Security Association (ISSA).
Depending on the development of nanomaterials, worker exposure and therefore the risk prevention measures to be implemented will not be the same. A multi-disciplinary working group designed four scenarios about the development of nanomaterials in France and deduced the impact of each of them on occupational risk prevention.
2015-2016: Modes and methods of production in France in 2040
What are the production modes of the future? And their consequences on occupational health and safety? This exercise comprised four major stages:
- a retrospective phase to review the development of production modes over the previous 25 years and their consequences on occupational safety and health and to determine the factors influencing production modes and occupational safety and health (artificial intelligence, new technologies, forms of work contracts, etc.),
- determination of any breaking points or changes in the previous 25 years that could have had an impact on those factors,
- identification of the main challenges in terms of production and work organisation that would influence future changes,
- specific breakdown of these results in terms of occupational risks and prevention.
2016-2017: Platformisation 2027
Consequences on occupational safety and health
In 2016-2017, INRS carried out a foresight exercise on platformisation and its impacts on occupational safety and health in 2027. This exercise was built on the previous exercise conducted in 2016 on modes and methods of production in France in 2040. It was done in partnership with OSH bodies, institutional players and “new economy” participants. Several scenarios and three activity sectors (health, retail, interior construction) were examined.
2017: A circular economy in 2040. What impact on occupational safety and health ? What prevention?
In 2017, INRS partnered up to explore the possible futures of a circular economy for 2040 and to identify the occupational safety and health challenges.
With regard to occupational safety and health, the challenge is key. A circular economy offers above all, the chance for better integration of prevention ahead of the creation of new production modes, new services and new products. But it can also result in negative effects if concern for the protection of workers’ health is not taken into account, swept under environmental interests. The potential risks are high when it comes to revising production processes or using other raw materials (particularly from recycling), rolling out new technology, developing repair and reuse activities, transforming waste for it to be reused, etc.
The goal of this prospective exercise was not to attempt to predict the future of this economic model, but to explore the mechanisms in order to identify the impact on working conditions that its development implies. The product of this reflection is a series of questions (and not recommendations) on topics that call for economic players to be vigilant so as to conciliate environmental preservation and occupational risk prevention in the new production and consumption modes introduced by the circular economy.
At European level, we are also part of the “Futures group” of the PEROSH network. Taking into account the Europe 2020 Strategy and the Horizon 2020 Programme, EU OSHA published the report “Priorities for occupational safety and health research in Europe 2013-2020“ identifying four priority OSH issues for the upcoming years:
Priority 1. Demographic change – sustainable work for healthier and longer working lives
Priority 2. Globalisation and the changing world of work – OSH research contribution to sustainable and inclusive growth
Priority 3. OSH research for safe new technologies as a prerequisite for sustainable growth
Priority 4. Research into new or increasing occupational exposures for the benefit of a smart and sustainable economy.
The aim of the PEROSH Futures group is to create a practical research agenda based on the research themes included in the four macro areas identified by the EU-OSHA report. The overall objective is to provide a shared knowledge framework in order to influence the European research agenda within the Horizon 2020 Programme.
These activities are contributing to guiding the choices of decision-makers and other stakeholders. Thanks to these synergies with our partners, in France and abroad, INRS will be able to confront the major prevention challenges of the upcoming years.
Document in French only
In the world of work, the COVID-19 pandemicfirst revealed inequality in situations of exposure to the risk of contamination. But the pandemic also fast-tracked changes that had already started regarding work organisation.