Investment in safety and health is "key contribution" to economic performance, ISSA study confirms

Cover final report "The return on prevention"

Investment in safety and health in enterprises has a direct and measurable cost-benefit potential, according to a new study that the International Social Security Association (ISSA) will present to an audience of experts and policy-makers, at the World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, in Istanbul on 12 September.

A pilot study on the economic costs and benefits of prevention investments, coordinated by the ISSA, compared data on interventions and analysed practices in 300 companies in 15 countries.

The results of the study indicate that the cost-benefit potential for investments in prevention may be as strong as 1:2.2, and even higher for direct interventions, for example investments in preventive medical check-ups and safety training.

"Promoting safety and health at work not only saves lives, but also makes sound economic sense," stated Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, ISSA Secretary General, speaking in advance of the World Congress.

"The conclusions of this report are particularly timely, as the global economic crisis has added to pressures on companies to reduce costs, including in the area of safety and health," he said.

"The study demonstrates that prevention measures are a key contribution not only to the health and well-being of the workforce, but also to the economic performance of the enterprise and the sustainability of social security schemes," Konkolewsky noted.

A Global Forum for Prevention

Occupational accidents and diseases represent a major burden on societies and economies. International estimates indicate that the financial burden of compensation, health care, rehabilitation and invalidity on the economy could be as much as four per cent of national GDP in industrialized countries, and even higher in some developing nations.

According to experts, changing patterns of work are leading to new risks in the workplace, with a general trend towards a decrease in fatal accidents in the formal and developed economies which is accompanied by an increase in health risks, leading to occupational diseases and ill health, in particular chronic diseases due to mental health problems.

The changing context for safety and health will require new approaches to prevention, according to the ISSA, which co-organizes the World Congress with the International Labour Organization every three years.

"Modern prevention strategies should not only address the occupational side of health risks, but also the broader health behaviour and social environment of the individual worker," Konkolewsky said.

"This will require more integrated, cross-sectoral approaches by occupational safety and health experts, and among various social security schemes. The emergence of a new culture of prevention is greatly facilitated by the exchange among policy-makers and experts during the World Congress," he concluded.

More than 3,000 participants have registered for the XIX World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, making it the largest and most representative global occupational safety and health event.

The XIX World Congress on Safety and Health at Work takes place 11-15 September 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey. Held every three years, it is the largest global prevention event for occupational safety and health policy-makers and experts. The XIX World Congress is co-organized by the International Labour Organization and the International Social Security Association, in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security of the Republic of Turkey, on the theme "Building a Global Culture of Prevention for a Healthy and Safe Future".

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