“We love prevention”

3,980 participants from 143 countries: this is more people than have ever before taken part in a World Congress on Safety and Health at Work. They experienced four days full of highlights, stimulating discussions, visual impressions and interactive offerings.

“This World Congress will be different,” announced Errol Frank Stoové in his Keynote Speech. “It will be full of intervention, interaction and learning.” The President of the International Association for Social Security (ISSA) was proven right. New, trend-setting event formats such as the Forum for Prevention with its Action Stage, the Agora and the Special Media Session left a lasting impression on participants and offered a platform for personal exchange. In the spirit of the Congress motto “Sharing a vision for sustainable prevention”, this was the first time in the history of the World Congress that editors and camerapeople documented the discussions, content and atmosphere in real time in order to preserve the results for posterity.

The people: High-ranking guests from politics and business

High-ranking international and national guests were on hand for the event, including German Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Andrea Nahles; Finnish Minister of Social Affairs and Health Laura Räty; the Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Manpower in Singapore, Hawazi Daipi; and Xu Shaochuan, Vice-Minister, State Administration of Work Safety, from China. The fact that they came to Frankfurt shows how important the topic of occupational safety and health has become for political work. Keynote speakers opened up new ways of looking at the theme and staked out the substantive framework for the World Congress 2014, among them Dr Natalie Lotzmann, Leader Global Health Management at SAP SE; Chong Meng Tan, Group CEO of PSA International in Singapore; Dr Casey Chosewood of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the USA; and Professor Cameron Mustard, President of the Canadian Institute for Work and Health.

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The themes: From diversity to the culture of prevention to Vision Zero

The diversity among the 3,980 participants is a good indicator of the diversity of the modern world of work – one of the main topics at this World Congress. How can prevention efforts deal with this diversity? How can they ensure that all people are optimally protected at work? These and countless other questions were discussed at length at the Technical Sessions and Symposia, not only by the moderators and speakers, but also by the participants themselves. The aim was to network with others, exchange views and engage in a dialogue to search for the best solutions. This idea is reflected in the new subtitle for the World Congress: Global Forum for Prevention.

Global collaboration of this sort is vital for establishing a worldwide culture of prevention — which will indeed be the defining issue for prevention in the years to come: “Shaping a culture of prevention is not a static proposition. It has to be developed slowly, a process that will inevitably have its ups and downs,” explained Congress President Dr Walter Eichendorf. The important thing is to start taking action. “Prevention culture will work only if we put it into practice.”

While in the West the debate is dominated by the question of how the health and well-being of employees can be increased, in many other parts of the world people are still lacking even the most basic tools for safety and health at work. “6,300 people die every day from the consequences of work-related accidents or occupational diseases,” noted Guy Ryder, Secretary General of the International Labour Organization (ILO). It is essential that governments, enterprises and workers coordinate their efforts here as well. After all, “The right to physical integrity is a human right.”

A commitment to prevention

“Prevention must become a global movement”, “We need to get more involved”, “We need to get more personal” – these are just a few of the sentiments expressed at the World Congress 2014. They make it amply clear that the world of prevention is beginning to change as it enters a new era where the focus is more on the human aspect. One of the most emotional messages of the World Congress came from Errol Frank Stoové. With the slogan “I love prevention”, he summed up what all of the participants have long since taken to heart: a commitment to prevention.

See you in Singapore in 2017!


Text: Sanja Zec