Networking for prevention

 In just a few hours, the XX World Congress on Safety and Health will come to an end. What will remain? Room 5 in the Congress Centre is buzzing with murmuring voices. “Networking as a driving force for prevention” is the topic of the symposium, with lively moderation by Dr Ulrike Bollmann from the Institute for Work and Health (IAG) of the German Social Accident Insurance (IAG) and Kevin Myers from the International Association of Labour Inspection (IALI).

netzwerken1What a warm welcome we receive this morning in the conference room overlooking Frankfurt’s skyline. More and more guests arrive, greet each other, take their seats in small groups. Somebody hunts down a couple of extra stools so that everyone can participate.

“How can we best use networking to achieve prevention? What makes a network work? And how can it be used to raise awareness of the practical tools available for enterprises? – These are the questions to be addressed by the participants in this symposium. Each of the four corners of the room is dedicated to a different type of network, from A for “Advocacy Network” to C for “Collaboration Network”, then there was “Content Network” right up to S for “Support Network”.

A network thrives on the active participation of many people, and this can be seen clearly here in Room 5. Many people speak up, providing insights into their own work and sharing their experiences. But a network also needs a certain amount of structure, a purpose and an objective. So several experts sit in on each group to steer the discussion. Moderator Dr David Gold from consulting firm Gold-Knecht Associates guides us with charm through the overall programme and introduces his guests. And there is a wonderful surprise: the hosts of the next World Congress, taking place in Singapore in 2017, have also decided to participate in the symposium today – it is truly a networked world.

“Networks can help workers to get practical information about their work and the challenges they face, and to receive emotional and professional support,” says Katariina Röbbelen-Voigt from the Kooperationsstelle Hamburg. This type of network is usually small and flexible. A collaboration network on the other hand is made up of a loose bond between larger groups that represent common interests.

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Timothy Tregenza from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work draws attention to the content aspect. “Content networks are excellent tools for gathering data as they can often reach beyond standard information sources.” He stressed that the main aim of a content network is to work together to create a joint outcome for groups outside the network. And an advocacy network aims to raise the awareness of many people by diffusing specific information.

The network theme for today is prevention. Dr David Gold declares the next discussion round open. And this time, the participants have a special task to fulfil. It’s about nothing less than stress prevention. How can the mental health of all employees be maintained? “Stress is created when the demands of a workplace are not in line with the abilities of the employee,” says occupational psychologist Jasmine Kix from the German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the Administrative Sector in her introductory talk.

The recommendation to companies was to take up the challenge of addressing this and other safety and health topics in a similar way. Management support is also a key element in successful prevention in the area of psycho-social stress – this was the conclusion of the participants.

During their networking discussions, they also put together other useful tips. The results will be put into practice. Kevin Myers will be taking them with him to the UK to integrate them into his work for the International Association for Labour Inspection (IALI). There is much applause at the end of the symposium and heartfelt farewells. And not to be forgotten – business cards to be left in the box before you leave. This is how networking as a driving force for prevention can succeed. Until next time – see you in Singapore at the 2017 World Congress!

Text: Bettina Bräuniger