New regulations should be drawn up to tackle psychosocial risks caused by the new breed of super-efficient machines, a new report has urged.
Ok Computer? The safety and security dimensions of Industry 4.0 is written by IfM Education and Consultancy Services (IfM ECS), of the University of Cambridge. It was commissioned by Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit and the Lloyd’s Register Foundation to explore the changing nature of safety and security in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) to ensure industry preparedness.
The report says safety and standards bodies should collaborate on ways to develop a ‘4IR-ready workforce’ by training up workers, managers and directors on safety competency, based on the needs and understanding of the new risks.
It argues there is an "exponential" increase in the connectedness of machines, processes and firms, while new forms of work organisation are involving more intensive interactions among humans and machines.
New safety risks are emerging with these. This includes higher work performance pressure, and threats to mental health including worsening of workplace atmosphere, worker involvement and peer support. New digital technologies for example, while they could enhance independent work, may lead to reduced contact between employees, colleagues and supervisors. Less social workplaces could induce loneliness related to stress and anxiety.
Modern techniques such as cobots or exoskeletons for manual handling could have implications for workers’ physical health too. Over-reliance this technology could result in a loss of muscle/bone density or joint flexibility.
Gesture, voice or eye tracking commands could be misinterpreted or sent to the wrong machine, leading to potential safety incidents.
David Leal-Ayala, Senior Policy Analyst at at IfM ECS said: “4IR is leading to an increase in new forms of work organisation which involve more intensive interactions between humans and machines.
However, knowledge gaps around the safety and security dimensions of these changes are prevalent amongst manufacturers. This sector review comes at a crucial time. If we wish to achieve the full potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its technologies, all frameworks, regulations, standards and skills must be in place to support its uptake.”
Badr Al Olama, Head of the Organising Committee for GMIS said: “The potential of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies is a game changer for the manufacturing sector, and in order to reach this potential, it is essential that we develop the right skills to master the implementation of these technologies.
"This means we also need to understand the associated risks and security challenges along the way. Our partnership with the Lloyd’s Register Foundation is built on the need to develop our knowledge of these challenges through a multi-stakeholder approach, which we hope will continue to encourage innovative technology that is changing the world as we know it.”
Download the report here
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