Workplace health & safety in 2040

Held by the European Trade Union Institute (EUTI) from 27 to 29 January, the meeting was attended by some thirty representatives from trade union, academic and employer circles. The method known as ‘scenario-building’ was used for the exercise.

Every scenario-building exercise takes place in a series of clearly defined stages. On day one of the meeting the participants’ task was to identify the factors – or ‘givens’ – that are highly likely to influence the future of occupational safety and health (OSH) in Europe. Examples of proposals made by participants included technological advance, climate change, demographic change, and our responsibility to future generations. The second stage consisted in identifying another set of factors referred to as ‘drivers’. While these are equally important, their development is subject to more uncertainty.

The process of identifying these drivers was the main and most time-consuming issue on day two of the gathering. Finally, participants reached agreement on two fundamental drivers, namely work organisation and the socio-economic model. On this basis two axes were drawn – horizontal and vertical – on the basis of which four scenarios would subsequently be drawn up to provide accounts of different possible futures.

Once the four scenario areas had been defined, participants were divided into four groups which, on the last day of the gathering, drew up for these areas narratives that juxtaposed different novel alternatives and enabled them to be compared. The completed scenarios were then presented in a plenary session to the other groups before subjecting them to the critical appreciation of all participants.

The process will be taken a stage further next April in The Netherlands when the discussions will receive a new focus by developing a causal plot for each narrative and assessing the plausibility of each situation, while at the same time considering the role to be played by safety reps and other specific aspects related to OSH.

Back in 2008 the ETUI embarked on a similar process. In that instance the scenario-building exercise was designed to look at the future of industrial relations in Europe. It led to the publication of a book two years later.

Post date: 17 Feb 2015

Back to listing page