It can’t be done alone

“Prevention culture should be a subject at school”, “Safety and health at work should be learned from a young age” – these were the kinds of comments heard again and again during the Congress. But how can the education system, society and the working world interact on this topic? The symposium “Creating a safe and healthy learning and working environment” tried to find some answers – by asking questions.

S12_environment_DSC9821Education plays a key role in the creation of a culture of prevention. The moderators of the symposium, Dr Ulrike Bollmann from the Institute for Work and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance (IAG), Steve Horvath from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, as well as Dr David Gold from Gold-Knecht Associates, were all in agreement on this. If children learn from a young age to protect themselves and their environment from hazards, they will retain this awareness throughout their lives. Although this reasoning makes sense, research in the area is still in its infancy. Some first steps have already been taken but there are no ready-made solutions for creating a culture of prevention in schools in such a way that it can later benefit the workplace and society as a whole.

From a research perspective

The researchers took the floor for the first half of the symposium. They presented some initial ideas that could form the foundation for a safe and healthy learning and working environment. Peter Paulus, for example, from the Leuphana University of Lüneburg, talked about the “Good healthy school” concept, which combines the topics of safety, health and education. Just how effective this kind of strategy can be was shown by a project from Ontario, Canada, presented by Sue Boychuk from the Ontario Ministry of Labour. Since the year 2000, safety and health have been integral parts of the curriculum there – from kindergarten right up to grade 12. The success of this programme is impressive: the number of accidents among teenagers has dropped by 70 per cent since it was launched. Boychuk warned against losing sight of diversity among young people. “Young people are often seen as a homogeneous group. That’s not the case. Like adults, young people can also be very different, coming from different cultural groups, for example, or from special family situations.”

From the plenary perspective

The floor was passed to the audience for the second half of the symposium, and a Q&A session started. “Questions can be a catalyst for change,” said moderator David Gold when explaining the principle. He continued by saying, “Only those who ask questions can hope for innovative and meaningful answers. So please ask the most provocative questions you can think of regarding this topic.” The audience was divided into three groups, representing the areas of education, work and society. They were told to ask each other their most pressing questions. This led to a lively discussion, enriched by the many personal experiences of the participants.

“We can achieve change,” said David Gold in his wrap-up summary. However, it had also become clear that this wouldn’t be possible if everyone was working alone. “We can’t do this in isolation. We have to be more of a team and work together.”

Text: Sanja Zec


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