Reducing the risk of AI

Companies exploring artificial intelligence (AI) to adapt their business operations now have a risk management tool to help them manage new potential workplace health and safety (WHS) risks when introducing and using the technology.

Associate Professor Andreas Cebulla, researches the Future of Work at the Australian Industrial Transformation Institute based at Flinders University’s Tonsley Innovation District site.

“Our research consultations highlighted that AI was likely to cause deep workplace changes to how organisations schedule employee workloads,” says study leader Dr Andreas Cebulla, Associate Professor at the Flinders University’s Australian Industrial Transformation Institute.

“Businesses such as utility companies or road maintenance firms have used AI-based ticketing systems to schedule and track workers’ assignments, and allocate them work considering constraints such as their experience or current workload.

“Introducing AI innovation involved significant management, for instance to ensure employee workloads were within the confines of its enterprise bargaining agreement.”

Associate Professor Cebulla says AI capabilities are starting to take over from traditional managerial tasks

The AI WHS Scorecard has been developed as part of the collaborative research project, Ethical Use of Artificial Intelligence in the Workplace (2020-2021that establishes the actions businesses can take to consider the safety of their workforce when introducing AI processes.

The project was jointly conducted by the University of Adelaide’s SA Centre for Economic Studies (SACES) and Australian Institute for Machine Learning (AIML), together with the Flinders University Australian Industrial Transformation Institute (AITI) and the Centre for Work Health and Safety.

AI is being increasingly embraced by Australian businesses, with recent ABS statistics show that half of all businesses introduced some type of innovation (i.e. new good, service or process). A number of surveyed businesses commented they were driven to quickly adapt to changes in the business operating environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CSIRO research shows that AI is already used in the healthcare, infrastructure, agriculture and natural resource management industries and the Australian Government’s Artificial Intelligence Technology Roadmap is anticipated to accelerate growth as Australian industry is supported as it seeks opportunities to broaden its innovation.

“Businesses can maximise their prospects by addressing the potential new work health and safety risks of AI using the AI WHS Scorecard we have developed,” says the University of Adelaide’s Dr Genevieve Knight, Senior Economist, SA Centre for Economic Studies (SACES).

“The AI WHS Scorecard gives an evidence-based pathway for avoiding harm and maintaining safe use of AI in workplaces.”

“While AI solutions offer digital opportunities to adapt business operations and gain productivity growth, the AI WHS Scorecard gives crucial support for understanding how to consider the safety of workers,” says Dr Knight.

“It ensures that using AI is consistent with Australian government standards for managing workplace health and safety hazards as part of the Principles of Good Work Design.

“This helps organisations take a strategic approach to anticipate the emergent WHS risks related to AI use in their workplace and meet the principles Australians expect organisations to use to responsibly develop and ethically use AI in the workplace.”

The research team was composed of the University of Adelaide’s Dr Genevieve Knight (SACES), Dr Zygmunt Szpak (AIML), and Dr Catherine Howell, working with Flinders University’s Associate Professor Andreas Cebulla of the AITI, in partnership with Dr Sazzad Hussain from the Centre for Work Health and Safety.

The team’s findings were published in their report Ethical Use of Artificial Intelligence in the Workplace (2020-2021).

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