Matt Scherer, a senior policy counsel for workers' rights and technology at the Centre for Democracy and Technology in the US, issued a warning about the hazards of 'bossware,' which is software used by employers to monitor workers' productivity during our OHS Live Show last Thursday.
He explained that bossware can create unsafe working conditions, and it may necessitate HSRs exercise their powers to direct a cease work under section 74 of our OHS Act.
Employers are using bossware to speed up work, constantly monitor remote workers at their homes, and analyse workers' phone calls. This can result in intense, stressful, and hazardous working conditions, reducing workers' autonomy and creating significant psychological risks.
Attendees learned that research has demonstrated that electronic surveillance and automated management systems can have adverse effects on workers' physical and mental health, including conditions like anxiety, depression, and stress-related issues. Bossware discourages breaks and enforces a faster work pace, increasing the risk of injuries.
Scherer emphasized that Victorian employers have a duty under our OHS laws to minimize the risks associated with electronic surveillance and automated management. Additionally, they should consider workers with disabilities when implementing digital productivity tracking and new productivity requirements.
HSRs have a vital role in ensuring that any implementation of bossware is carried out in a manner that reduces or eliminates risks to workers' health and safety. They can inform employers about the negative impacts, hold them accountable for consultation obligations, and utilize their right to access information on surveillance systems as a potential health and safety hazard. Furthermore, HSRs can issue provisional employment notices and directions to cease work if they suspect that bossware usage threatens workers' health and safety.