RIVM and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) have investigated the potential impact of developments in the next 20 years on occupational health and safety. How will artificial intelligence affect safety at work? How will the energy transition affect the risks that workers face? These kinds of developments have direct or indirect consequences for the health and safety of workers. The exact future impact remains unclear, but it is important to be prepared for any eventuality. The horizon scan ‘The future of occupational health and safety’ will help with this.

Description of developments

RIVM and TNO have described 33 developments that are expected to have an impact on occupational health and safety. Examples include an ageing workforce, globalisation, growing individualism, robotisation, climate change and the proliferation of rules. What course these developments will take and what their impact on occupational health and safety will be is not clear yet, but it is important to estimate the potential impact. This will make it possible to adequately prepare for the future. Based on these developments, RIVM and TNO have identified five strategic themes that are relevant to the future of occupational health and safety: the opportunities and risks presented by technological developments, the increasing mental burden, the changing autonomy of workers, the need for workers to continue to learn at and alongside work, and the multiple risks for vulnerable groups of workers.

According to the researchers, these are the themes that policymakers, employers and public authorities should prepare for in any case.

Being prepared for the future

The investigation was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. The Ministry has set a target of making fundamental improvements to the long-term employability of workers by 2040, so that fewer people die or become ill due to work-related causes. To achieve this, it is important to gain insight into the threats and opportunities that future developments present to the working population and to implement policies to anticipate these. This broad inventory of developments is a first step. RIVM and TNO will continue to investigate these developments and themes in the coming years.