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The timeline of human history has been punctuated by technological advancement. Every development, from the printing press to the PC, has had profound impacts on what it means to work and how we interact with the work we do.  

At the dawn of an AI-powered age that threatens to transform the world (and the workplace) as we know them, our focus must turn to how we harness new and developing technologies to make workplaces safer.   

At the dawn of the AI Age, three potential futures present themselves:  

  • The first leads to safer workplaces through new and developing technologies, enabled by legislative and regulatory frameworks that put workers' health, safety, and wellbeing first.  
  • The second is a continuation of our current standards, which over time fail to keep pace with an ever-advancing world, with workers left behind.   
  • The final future paints an altogether bleaker picture, in which a lack of regulatory frameworks allows a race to the bottom on AI safety standards; with workers unable to benefit from new and developing technologies.   

So, how do the legislators of today lay the foundations for the safer societies of tomorrow? How can they ensure that all workers can benefit from these technologies?  

This begins, as most things do, with a strong legislative and regulatory foundation that allows the development of new technologies but seeks to keep them grounded in societal betterment. In this way, regulation is used as a tool to progress the good that technology can offer whilst limiting its very real potential to harm (as is the case with Artificial Intelligence).  

Almost hand-in-glove with strong regulatory and legislative frameworks is a question that every business leader must consider; the high costs associated with acquiring and introducing new technologies into their business. Affordability is a barrier to entry and new and developing technologies can be expensive. If these technologies are only accessible to those who can afford them, we risk creating a two-tiered safety regime that puts workers in small and micro-sized businesses at greater risk.   

That’s why, as part of our ‘Health, Safety, and Wellbeing Manifesto’ we made the bold call on any future government to incentivise employers to invest in new and developing technologies that can improve health, safety, and wellbeing standards. By offsetting up to 5% of related spending our call seeks to encourage early uptake and reward those seeking to improve standards.   

In recognising that not every business will require AI, we’ve also included augmented reality and virtual reality technologies within the scope of our call. From immersive safety training to enhancing situation awareness, both AR and VR are already in use in workplaces and will play a key part in the safe workplaces of the future. 

At the end of this General Election, a new group of lawmakers will begin to grapple with the changes and challenges that the future will, inevitably, hold. In doing so, we must keep in mind that tomorrow’s safety starts today and work together to make sure that all workers can benefit from AI, AR, and VR.