This is part three in a three-part series.

Safe Work Australia has collaborated with CSIRO’s Data61 to produce the Workplace Safety Futures report, which explored 6 megatrends that is emerging in the WHS and workers’ compensation over the next 20 years.

Michelle Baxter, CEO of Safe Work Australia speaks about the impacts to the future Australian working life and the emerging challenges and opportunities for work health and safety in the future.

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I said earlier, work is changing and so must we. What I'd like to do now is talk about the ageing workforce, automation, the rise of artificial intelligence, remote surveillance, telehealth, global communication, gig economy. These have all shown on us that industries, markets and workforces can change with astonishing speed. So, our work’s now digitised or relies heavily on digitised capability. How work is done will involve more humans interacting with more machines and technology. And this, without doubt, is going to bring new and unexpected challenges, but also opportunities for improving Work, Health and Safety. In particular, we're on the cusp of discovering exactly what impacts the changing face of work will have on the mental health of our workers. This is really important and I'll come to this a little bit later in a bit more detail. It's clear we stand at a new frontier for workplace safety.

So, in Australia, we did some work with a body that's called the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, CSIRO for short. And we had a look at the challenges and opportunities for Work, Health and Safety presented by this new frontier. We looked into the future and over the coming 20 years and identified six megatrends that will disrupt and change the work done in Australia. So, the big questions for everyone in this room is, if work is changing, do our Work, Health and Safety and workers' compensation systems as well, do they also need to change? Or, are the existing systems robust enough to cope with the powerful forces of change and disruption? So, the resulting Workplace Safety Futures report provides an intriguing insight into the future of Australian working life. But that was just the start of the conversation. So, as policymakers, the report gives us a context that we need to discuss what we want Work, Health and Safety and workers' compensation to look like in the future and also how to get there.

As a result, we developed a National Guide to Work Related Psychological Health and Safety. And it sets out very clearly what the known causes of psychological injury in the workplace are, and also talks about what employers PCBU's can do in the workplace to try and prevent psychosocial injuries.

Transforming for the future: Part three: The Future of Work

Michelle Baxter

I talked earlier about a desire at Safe Work Australia to move beyond mere compliance and work towards embedding Work, Health and Safety best practice in all Australian workplaces. I'm emphasising this because by focussing on best practice over compliance, we keep the most important thing front and centre, and that's the inalienable right of a worker, regardless of their occupation or how they're engaged to a healthy and safe working environment. So I've talked a lot today about challenges and opportunities of the changing face of work. I think we all now stand on the threshold of one of the greatest opportunities for Work, Health and Safety. We know that designing work safely from the outset is the most robust way of ensuring workers safety and it makes workplaces more efficient and more productive. And work is right now, as we speak, being redesigned. What an unparalleled, unique and exciting opportunity for us, as Work, Health and Safety professionals here in this room, to actively guide in this change and collectively redesign how work is done, ensuring that worker safety is always placed front and centre. And that's the challenge for everyone here today. Thank you.

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