HSE is proud of its record in protecting people at work. Sustaining this record in a rapidly changing world relies on keeping pace with change, to enable us to anticipate new health and safety challenges so that we continue to regulate proportionately and effectively. Science and evidence play a key role in this, not only by helping us tackle existing workplace health and safety issues, but, through the work of our Foresight Centre, to consider and challenge our thinking around the future world of work.
The purpose of foresight activity is not to predict the future, but to highlight issues. Foresight challenges us, and others in the health and safety system, to consider what the changes in the world around us might mean for workplace health and safety. Foresight is a thought-starter; a prompt for us to reflect on the possible, revisit our assumptions and ask the ‘So what?’ question.
The rise of technology and demographic shift are increasingly transforming our lives. The pace of technological change is accelerating; the scale, speed and impact of these changes is faster than in the past. Advances in information and communication technology are transforming the workplace, changing the nature of businesses, work sectors, occupations, work tasks and how people perceive work.
In terms of demographic shift, the UK’s population is getting older and for the first time, older people will outnumber children. More people are likely to work into older age and with pre-existing ill health conditions.
Making a difference to worker health and safety requires the efforts of the whole health and safety system. We aim to prevent occupational ill health through our regulatory activity and by working with others, acting as an enabler and encouraging others to take ownership of health and safety. As part of this, we help to anticipate and highlight emerging issues that are likely to impact on the future world of work.
An understanding of the changing landscape as it affects the workplace, and the consequences for occupational health, is vital to inform future preventive measures, regulatory approaches and the provision of occupational health services.
HSE’s Foresight Centre chose the topics on the visible and emerging issues we observe through our routine horizon scanning activities.
Dr Patrick Vallance, the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA) defines horizon scanning as, ‘A systematic examination of information to identify potential threats, risks, emerging issues and opportunities, beyond the Parliamentary term, allowing for better preparedness and the incorporation of mitigation and exploitation into the policy-making process.’ Futures techniques do not predict the future, but rather they provide decision-makers with the opportunity to build resilience to the changing future occupational landscape. This aligns with the government’s aim to help businesses grow and to do so in a healthy, safe and productive way.
If you are interested in looking into the future of work and using collaborative futures techniques, such as workshops and scenario building, you can contact HSE’s Foresight Centre by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org