Lee: Don’t overlook workplace safety and health risks

  • Nation
  • Monday, 30 Dec 2019

PETALING JAYA: Safety and health risks in the workplace should not be overlooked even though more technology will be used in Industry 4.0, says Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

The Alliance for Safe Community chairman said yesterday that 4.0 tool risks should be assessed to protect employees’ safety and health.

“New sources of physical risks, long-term health risks from exposure to new substances and psycho-social risks from new work-related stresses should be addressed.

“Technology is important in Industry 4.0 but focusing on technology alone will not warrant the seamless digital transformation of a business, ” he said in a statement.

“Organisations must ensure employees understand the changing landscape and how they fit in.

“They must be equipped with the essential skills that will enable them to adapt to the ever-changing work environment.”

Employers, according to Lee, must look at how training and capacity building could improve employees’ skills and prepare them before adopting and implementing the new technologies.

“Artificial intelligence automates various tasks that can lead to loss of jobs or it can spawn new types of jobs that require creativity and complex problem-solving tasks automation isn’t well suited to. This requires the adaptation of new skills that involves retraining.

“Employees must be equipped with the skills that will prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow.

“Talent development, lifelong learning and career reinvention are the way to embrace Industry 4.0, ” he said, adding that developing employee competencies should be one of an organisation’s priorities.

Lee said employees must also be trained based on an understanding of new emerging risks.

“For example, wrong gestures or misinterpreted commands sent to the wrong machine will lead to safety incidents.

“Over-reliance on cobots (collaborative robots) or exoskeletons for manual tasks may affect an employee’s physical health such as loss of muscle or bone density, ” he said.

Other potential occupational safety and health issues might also include psycho-social risk factors where people are driven to work at a cobot’s pace or collisions between a cobot and a person, Lee said.

“Security and privacy issues will also be another risk that we need to address.

“Stolen data, disturbance of interaction, paralysed system structures and external attacks on cloud-based storage will be among the threats faced by organisations.

“Cyber security is a real concern as most groups are not really prepared for them, ” he cautioned.

Employees might also face privacy issues as everything may be recorded and analysed, and protecting data could turn difficult, he added.“However, the advantages of Industry 4.0 outweigh the challenges faced by organisations.

“The advent of the latest technologies won’t exactly replace the employees or a particularly safety professional.

“It will allow employees to perform their task efficiently, increase productivity while reducing risks and injuries.

“Big data will also make safety professionals better at what they should – that is, to create a safe and healthy work culture that keeps people safe, reduces incidents and prevents accidents, ” Lee said.

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