Industrial Revolution 4.0: Improving Occupational Health and Safety

From 10 to 12 February 2021 took place in Cluj-Napoca / Romania a seminar about “Industrial Revolution 4.0: Improving Occupational Health and Safety”, organised by IFES (Institutul de Formare Economică şi Socială) in cooperation with EZA and with the support of the European Union.

Due to travel restrictions related to the Coronavirus pandemic, the seminar was organized in a hybrid system, participants from Romania were physically present in the seminar room, and participants from abroad attended the seminar online. The organization of the seminar was difficult because the medical conditions were sometimes better and sometimes less good so it was not possible to establish the period was made a few weeks before the date of the event. The conditions imposed by the Romanian state regarding the organization of such events imposed the presence in the seminar room of at most 25 people (including organizers, technicians and interpreters) and ensuring the conditions of medical safety (distance to 1.5 m, protective masks, disinfectant, rapid tests COVID-19). We are glad that, at about 4 weeks after the event, no cases of COVID-19 infection were reported.

The seminar was of particular importance to bring up a topic less addressed (occupational health and safety in the IT field) and highly topical (more and more jobs, especially those involving the use of computers, have moved from company headquarters in employees' homes). The seminar was attended by representatives of trade unions, including those in the IT sector, employers, specialists in significant fields for the subject, but also representatives of the authorities in the field. The seminar benefited from the contribution of up-to-date information and expertise from 6 other countries, from the European Union and not only.

The participants were from Bulgaria, Italy, Germany, Lithuania, Moldovia (as guests), Slovakia and Romania.

During the sessions of the seminar have been discussed the following main themes:

  • Work in the digital age. The challenges of the Industrial Revolution 4.0
    • The meaning of the Industrial Revolution 4.0. What are the consequences for the economy
    • Work and technologies based on ICT. The Challenges of the Industrial Revolution 4.0. 
  • Labor relations. Occupational health and safety.
    • Working in virtual teams - advantages and challenges
    • Emotional health in a professional context. Challenges and opportunities
  • Digitization - Benefits & Challenges. Approaches of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work
  • Occupational health and safety in the digital age in Romania and in the EU
    • Legislation, policies and realities in the field of occupational health and safety
    • Changes in work behaviour during the pandemic. Implications for health and safety at work.
  • Management and trade unions view on the challenges of the industrial revolution 4.0. 
    • Social dialogue in the digital age ... and in the pandemic.

Representing the interests of employees.

    • Professional ailments in the IT field. Causes. Effects. Measures
    • Occupational health and safety in the IT sector. Managerial policies and the situation of IT companies in Romania
    • The phenomenon of burnout and the right to disconnect
  • Approaching digital and technological change through social dialogue. Case study: IT sector.
  • How to ensure a healthy work environment in the conditions of technological progress. 

During the seminar, the presentations of Mr. Nicolae VOINOIU, director on the Romanian National Labor Inspection, and of Mr. Florentin IANCU, President of IT Trade union federation were especially appreciated.

The information and comments on the situation in the countries from which our colleagues intervened were appreciated. Similarities were identified between the situations in our countries, but also differences (for better or worse). At the end of each discussion topics have drawn conclusions relevant to the future work of trade unions organizations. 

The participants identified several future actions: 

  • A more sustained action by the unions so that the laws in force are respected in every job;
  • Promoting information campaigns for employees regarding their rights and responsibilities at work. It has been pointed out many times that in the end all employees must protect their health at work.
  • Promoting more precise regulations in the field of telework, the right to disconnect, the intensity and duration of work in the IT field
  • A greater effort by unions to explain the need for employees to be part of structures that negotiate on their behalf and that their right to health at work appears.
  • A permanent link between the specialists from the academic environment and the unions for providing a useful expertise in understanding and evaluating specific situations at work.
  • Better collaboration with local, national and European authorities.
  • Closer collaboration between trade unions in EU countries, so that good examples are known and applied.