Business tool reduces risk of implementing AI tech

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.

“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,” said 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.”

The AI WHS Scorecard has been developed as part of the collaborative research project, Ethical Use of Artificial Intelligence in the Workplace (2020-2021) that 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: 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. The study leader Dr Andreas Cebulla, Associate Professor at the Flinders University’s Australian Industrial Transformation Institute said AI capabilities are starting to take over from traditional managerial tasks.

“Our research consultations highlighted that AI was likely to cause deep workplace changes to how organisations schedule employee workloads,” he said. “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.” 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.

“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,” said 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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