“Prevention calls for a holistic approach”

Our world is subject to constant change. Globalization and demographic change are just two examples of phenomena that are having a massive impact on work worldwide. How can prevention at work respond to the new challenges and adapt effectively to change? In his report, Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, Secretary General of the International Social Security Association (ISSA), presented the approaches of the ISSA.

KonkolewskyPrevention at work these days should not only promote greater safety at the workplace, Konkolewsky demanded. “We are witnessing a new prevention trend – away from the classical conception of safety at work and towards employee health and well-being.” The subject of prevention must be viewed holistically. Accident and health risks no longer have their causes solely at work or at home. He took the example of mental illness, which is frequently caused equally by issues at work and at home. “In terms of prevention, the individual has to be regarded as a human being and no longer just as a worker,” the ISSA Secretary General stated.

For its prevention strategy, the ISSA is taking a three-dimensional approach that goes back among other things to the German Social Accident Insurance. It focuses on the following factors: preventing risks at the workplace, promoting health at the workplace, and supporting the return to work and vocational rehabilitation. In these areas, the ISSA has developed guidelines that provide social security institutions with numerous prevention strategies and tools. By using them, these institutions can build up prevention skills, infrastructure, programmes and activities that take account of specific national and institutional peculiarities.

hier video-name



A holistic approach to prevention not only benefits employees, but also reaps dividends for companies. This has been underpinned by numerous studies, he claimed. Investment in the prevention of workplace hazards, for example, generates an average rate of return of 1 to 2.2. The promotion of health at the workplace is even capable of cutting working days lost by a quarter, he added.

The members of the ISSA, i.e. the social insurance institutions and other social security organizations, should now play a pioneering role in their respective countries. “From payer to player” – the institutions have to engage proactively in the prevention field. The above-mentioned guidelines contain illustrative best practices that members should use and that should be available to companies. In addition, the ISSA Centre for Excellence has been set up. The aim here is to promote and facilitate schemes of the member organisations of all branches of social security that improve administrative processes. “The social insurance institutions must exploit their potential,” said Konkolewsky.

Last but not least, the entire system has to undergo continuous re-appraisal. How can prevention professionals work together better in building up a joint prevention culture? A good example is the joint German occupational safety and health strategy, a campaign of national and regional government and the accident insurance institutions in Germany to boost safety and health at work.

At the end of the report, the presenter Karl-Josef Thielen asked an interesting question: Why does the ISSA place such a strong focus on prevention? Because this area can do with livelier proactive involvement of the social insurance institutions, the ISSA Secretary General replied. Furthermore, prevention has to be adapted to a large degree to global change. And everyone involved must pull together.

Text: Elena Engelhardt