Written by an independant expert (see the report of the workshop)
The EC Workshop on Industrial Safety was organized in order for the different stakeholders in Industrial Safety and Research to confront their visions on what the state-of-the-art and the priorities are in this domain across the different sectors of Industry. The unit in charge of the follow-up of the ETP on Industrial Safety has indeed identified safety as a cross-cutting issue with potentially significant societal impact. Many challenges and opportunities have emerged during this workshop. The challenges and opportunities were also often similar throughout various industrial sectors and environments. First, it is clear that industrial safety is regarded as very important for all participants (industrialists, academia, and policy makers), and in all industrial sectors that participated in the workshop (chemical industry, biotechnology, nanotechnology, construction, manufacturing, ICT), because it has a positive impact on the business performance and sustainability, the acceptance of innovation and of the traditional industry as well.
Second, there was consensus that safety is important for the competitiveness of European companies, and that safety in relation to technological innovations, as well as safety innovations themselves, go hand in hand with profitability of technology and of businesses. Safety brings a positive image of the industry and contributes to the industry acceptance by the public.
Different speakers indicated that safety has come a long way already thanks to research, that safety aspects are currently taken into account in many projects, and confirmed that research focused on Safety is also important. Current safety practices which are based on a long history of theoretical modeling, technological advancements, and casuistic, should be kept and further elaborated and improved, and also disseminated across various organizations and different industrial sectors. Learning, cooperation and building up knowledge across experts, domains, sectors and stakeholders, achievable by using state-of-the-art technology, are seen by the participants of the workshop as pivotal for the advancement of safety. In this context, a suggestion to create a “common house of industrial safety” (as a coordination action) has been made by the ETP on Industrial Safety to support the cooperation between thematic research with safety experts and facilitate the transfer of good practices from one sector to the others. The following paragraphs discuss some challenges and opportunities that were jointly identified by the workshop participants, and for which an agreement was reached on their importance for safe industrial technologies, including working environments, in Europe. Recommendations for further advancing industrial safety are also given in the paragraphs.
Although the objective safety level has increased substantially in the past decades, risk aversion of the public at large has increased as well. This is not a paradox: the safer the society, the more safety is asked for by the public, and the more safety is demanded by the public, the safer the society. In any case, both real and perceived risks are important and should be identified to understand and foster the acceptability and acceptance of risks by the public and all other stakeholders. The involvement of the public in the discussions is very important for industrial operations to be accepted by the local communities, this being true both for individual companies and for industrial sectors.
Directly linked to the safety/risk perception, is safety communication. If safety communication is adequate, pro-active as well as re-active, many problems in case of incidents, calamities, disasters, can be avoided.
Therefore, research on adequate safety and risk communication techniques and practices is needed.
Safety as an economic added value
Participants agreed on the fact that safety can be used as a selling point.
Both productivity and safety are essential for sustainable industrial activities. The economic aspects of safety and risk, such as cost-benefit analyses and cost-effectiveness analyses should be further explored, investigated, agreed upon, and more rigorously employed in industry.
Research is very much needed in this regard.
Integrating safety and security
A further integration between safety and security should be strived for.
Safety is concerned with non-intentional losses, while security concerns intentional acts purposefully causing losses. Although different, both concepts deal with uncertainties and management principles, models and theories as well as technological solutions to avoid losses, are in fact related to each other. There are similarities as well as differences in implementing both concepts. For example, inherent safety principles also lead to more security. A more harmonized view and policy to integrate activities and research on both safety and security, for creating a win-win situation and further increasing efficiency, is needed in the European context.
The T-approach of safety research
Safety requires a horizontal as well as a vertical approach within research and research projects. This is called the T-approach of safety research.
Safety expertise in projects should be strongly recommended by e.g. requesting safety to be taken into account in any study. Also innovative safety and safety innovations could be stimulated through projects designed for safety. Current safety solutions may be good, such as static risk assessment methods, but they are often far from excellent and can often –through innovation –be largely improved, e.g. developing easy-to-use dynamic risk assessment methods providing a much more accurate and timely risk picture for making decisions.
Safety within CSR
Safety (‘People’) should be a natural and a mature part of Corporate Social Responsibility, comparable with environment (‘Planet’) and economics (‘Profit’). With respect to this observation, continuously improving safety standards and guidelines within industrial sectors, and developing standards if they do not exist, is paramount for safety advancement within the European industry. In particular, guidelines to report safety performance in a harmonized and positive manner should be developed to support the new directive on the disclosure of non-financial information.
State-of-the-art research and safety research topics
Innovations are necessary for economic and scientific advancement, but they bring along new and emerging risks and require new approaches on top of the successful existing practices. Researchers should take this into account as part of the state-of-the-art technological research. Further state-of-the-art safety topics brought forward by different presenters and deserving attention by researchers and practitioners, include leadership, ageing (of workforce and of infrastructure), automation and robotization, safety nudges (making it inherently more difficult for workers to make mistakes or be distracted), inherent safety or design-based safety, and knowledge industrialization (including knowledge management and company memory management). Furthermore, pro-active performance management as well as (cross-sectorial and cross-company) cooperation are important areas to further explore and invest in.
Cross-cutting research needs continuation to assure safety and security of society, and to guarantee resilience and profitability of sustainable industrial activities at EU level.