Emerging challenges strategy

The way forward addresses WorkSafe's approach to emerging challenges including our aim, contributing factors, focus areas and new types of work. 


Emerging challenges are recognised and addressed in a coordinated and collaborative fashion. 

Contributory factors

  • New technology capabilities can bring many benefits, including safer work and workplaces. They need to be designed and have appropriate oversight to ensure workers are not exposed to new or additional WHS risks.
  • The nature of work is changing, along with the relationship between workers and persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs). Growing numbers of people now have multiple jobs, and there has been an increase in gig and platform work. More frequently, multiple PCBUs are involved in work at the same location or involved in the same undertaking, and share responsibilities under WHS laws.
  • New WHS risks are likely to emerge as Australia’s population and economy continue to change. The number of older workers in the labour force will increase further as the population distribution moves towards older ages, and when older people are injured, they are likely to require more time off work to recover.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic sparked a sharp shift to working from home and more flexible working arrangements across a wide variety of occupations.
  • Heat, flooding and extreme weather events related to climate change are increasingly likely to disrupt the normal operation of many businesses. In addition, new technologies and industries in decarbonisation and the circular economy are emerging, creating new roles. Climate change, increasing urbanisation, and the proximity of humans and animals have also led to the emergence of novel infectious diseases and increased the transmission and spread of other diseases.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented pressures on global supply chains. Trends that were identified prior to the pandemic, including increased consumer demand for a wider array of goods and services and business becoming more international, were exacerbated.

Focus areas

Rise of artificial intelligence (AI), automation and related technologies

  • PCBUs need to consider the potential work health and safety impacts when introducing new technologies, and ensure appropriate control measures are in place to manage the risks. For example, where automation could replace some hazardous manual tasks (i.e. decrease worker exposure to physical risks), workers overseeing the technology could be exposed to more psychosocial hazards resulting from increased or more complex interpersonal interactions as part of their job role.

New types of work

  • While roles and responsibilities are relatively well understood in traditional work arrangements, more can be done to explain WHS roles and responsibilities in platform, online or disintermediated work contexts. Workforce demographic shifts
  • Labour shortages in key industries such as agriculture, health care and social assistance may lead to a sharp increase in migrant workers with culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) backgrounds. PCBUs need to take a proactive approach to address any barriers to health and safety posed by these demographic workforce trends, and design appropriate health and safety systems and working environments for all workers.

Hybrid work

  • Hybrid work models, including working from home, may change or create new WHS risks that PCBUs need to manage. For example, flexibility in relation to when work is performed may increase time spent working. There may also be an impact on risk management processes and effective consultation, requiring PCBUs and health and safety representatives (HSRs) to find new ways to engage with workers to identify and manage risks to health and safety.

Climate-related risks

  • PCBUs need to consider the impact of climate change on WHS risks, such as heatwaves, bushfires, and zoonoses and other infectious diseases, and ensure appropriate control measures are in place to manage emerging and ongoing risks.

More complex supply chains

  • The increased scope of global supply chains with more participants means that PCBUs must consider WHS risks more systematically and ensure clarity in relation to WHS duties and responsibility.
  • The impact of low frequency, high consequence events on supply chains within high hazard industries is also significant. This requires proactive responses to risks posed by high hazard industries and supply (e.g. emerging hydrogen industry). PCBUs need to consult, cooperate, and coordinate effectively across supply chains to ensure the protection of all workers


The Minister for Industrial Relations, Western Australian Government, Work Health and Safety Commission (WHS Commission), advisory committees, industry and union peak bodies.


Professorial Chair in Mining WHS, research bodies, peak bodies and unions. 

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