World Congress calls for new global partnership to improve work safety
SEOUL - The XVIII World Congress on Safety and Health at Work concluded with calls for a new global partnership to strengthen safety and health in the workplace, and to reinforce efforts to reduce fatalities and illness.
Significantly improving the global occupational safety and health record will require new approaches, according to keynote speaker Dr. Jeffrey A. McNeeley, Chief Scientist at the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), noting remarkable convergences between the environmental and occupational safety agendas.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, Dr. McNeeley suggested that the occupational safety and prevention community could learn valuable lessons from the climate change experience. A strong scientific consensus, public awareness, economic incentives, new partnerships and a solid legal basis were all conditions for creating global change, he said.
Beyond deaths and injuries
Earlier in the programme, the Congress heard the latest figures on workplace accidents and diseases in a new report, Beyond deaths and injuries: The ILO's role in promoting safe and healthy jobs , presented by Dr. Sameera Al-Tuwaijri, Director of the International Labour Office's SafeWork programme. The ILO study draws from the latest available statistics and reports an increase in the estimated number of both fatal and non-fatal occupational accidents.
"We need to hold this world responsible for the fact that there is so much unnecessary death and human suffering," she said, and called for a new synergy of the various safety and health actors to ensure more effective strategies and policies.
Safety and Health Summit
The Congress was preceded by the first high-level Safety and Health Summit, that gathered some 50 high-level representatives, including government ministers, CEOs of major multinational companies, social security leaders, senior safety and health experts, and representatives of employers and workers.
The Summit participants signed an unprecedented Declaration on Safety and Health , which sets a benchmark for employers, workers and governments to reinforce cooperation to reduce workplace accidents and diseases.
Speaking after the Summit, the ISSA Secretary General Mr. Hans-Horst Konkolewsky hailed the outcome, and said that social security organizations were ready to play an important role in promoting healthy and productive workplaces. He called for increased commitment from a range of actors at the international and national to build a preventative safety and health culture worldwide.
An international "Safety Olympics"
The Congress, which took place in Seoul, Republic of Korea, 29 June - 2 July 2008, gathered close to 4,500 occupational safety and health professionals and other participants from over 120 countries, making it the largest gathering in the event's 60-year history.
The diverse programme included state-of-the-art technical sessions, over 40 symposia, poster sessions and regional meetings aimed at promoting sharing of knowledge and good practice among the participants. An international exhibition of safety and health organizations and products was held in parallel to the Congress. The Congress was so large and diverse that it has been dubbed the "Safety Olympics".
During the Congress, participants recognized that globalization, migration and pressure to increase productivity posed new challenges to the safety and health of workers. However, studies confirm that investing in training, prevention and better working conditions makes good business sense because healthier and happier workers make for more productive enterprises, proving that prevention pays.
XIX World Congress to be held in Turkey
During the closing plenary, Mr. Mustafa Konuk, Deputy Undersecretary at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security of Turkey, confirmed the invitation of his country to host the 19th World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, in Istanbul in 2011, in collaboration with the ILO and the ISSA.
International film and multimedia festival
Film and multimedia provide important tools for education, training and public awareness on safety and health issues; 115 films and 50 multimedia presentations were shown at the 7th International Film and Multimedia Festival that was organized by ISSA International Prevention Sections during the World Congress.
Announcing the results, the Chair of the ISSA Prevention Section, Marc De Greef, praised the quality of the entries, that were judged on their effectiveness, the treatment of their subject and the overall impression. The full list of winners is available on the ISSA Website: www.issa.int.
Speaking during the closing plenary, the Chairman of the ISSA's Special Commission on Prevention, Mr. Jean-Luc Marié, commended the Seoul Declaration as a recognition that occupational safety is a key societal responsibility in an increasingly globalized context.
"Beyond ethical considerations, protecting workers' health is an indispensable condition for productivity and economic development," he said. "To protect the working person, to protect "human capital", is to protect the most essential resource of all our societies."
The triennial Congress on Safety and Health at Work is jointly organized by the and the International Social Security Association (ISSA) and the International Labour Organization (ILO). The XVIII World Congress is hosted by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA).