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How IEC Standards address safety at work
White paper - Safety in the future

Each year, the ILO celebrates World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April. The ILO leverages this day to highlight the importance of worker safety and health.

Through its work, the IEC ensures that safety is an integral aspect of devices and systems, thereby protecting people, critical infrastructure, economies and the environment. IEC Standards can address aspects of safety that apply to many products or specifically address a single product type or industry.

The introduction of intelligent systems, such as the Internet of Things, big data, advanced robotics and artificial intelligence are transforming the connection between technology and people. As more machines are integrated into factory and logistic automation, mobility and healthcare processes, the need to ensure safe procedures for people working with machines is increasing.

IEC White Paper on Safety 2.0

In late 2020, the IEC published a new white paper, Safety in the future, which examines the topic of safety in the new digital environment. It references current social trends and initiatives, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as well as various real-life examples that are pioneering innovative safety solutions for the future.

These solutions share the common understanding that the concept of safety will be delivered in an integrated system in which workers, machines and the environment collaborate. Based on this common understanding, the IEC White Paper introduces a collaborative framework called the tripartite system for safety to provide a systems approach to examining key elements of safety in the future. The collaboration will be made possible by information flows going back and forth between the different intelligent agents of the system: human workers, smart machines, and the IT-enabled environment in which they function.

However, to achieve the goals of the tripartite system for safety will require significant efforts from the standardization community. For example, it will be necessary for standardization organizations to mitigate some of the most pressing challenges related to the decision-making between machines and humans as well as to expand their holistic approaches to safety by gathering insight from the fields of safety psychology, sociology and human behaviour.

The IEC White Paper concludes by formulating recommendations of both a general nature as well as specifically addressed to the IEC and its committees.

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