An Overview of the XVIII World Congress on Safety and Health at Work

The XVIII World Congress on Safety and Health at Work recently convened in Seoul, Korea, on June 29-July 2, 2008. The World Congress, which meets every three years, attracts several thousand decision makers, safety and health professionals, employers, workers' representatives, and social security experts from 100 countries, who gather to learn from each other and to exchange information with the goals of promoting safety and health at work and to prevent industrial accidents and occupational diseases.

The three conference organizers for the World Congress in 2008 were the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Social Security Association (ISSA), and the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA).

The motto for the event was "safety and health at work: a societal responsibility". For the first time a Safety and Health Summit was held before the opening day of the World Congress here in Seoul. Approximately 50 selected leaders and decision makers discussed safety and health at work as a basic human right and a means to economic growth and development. The purpose of the Summit was to stimulate political commitment and demonstrate that good occupational safety and health policies create a win-win situation for employers, workers, and society in general.

Regional meetings for the five continents, including the Americas, Asia-pacific, Europe, Africa, and Arab states, enabled participants to exchange mutual experiences and opinions regarding the prevention of industrial accidents and occupational diseases.

As reported by CNW Telbec, the International Film and Multimedia Festival provided the participants with the opportunity to enjoy the worldwide films and multimedia products associated with safety and health and to release their own products. More than 150 entries from 24 different countries competed at the film festival. The first place finish in the Multimedia Training category went to IAPA (Industrial Accident Prevention Association) of Canada's First 4 Weeks program. Over 50 multimedia applicants from 10 different countries participated in this category. According to IAPA, inexperienced workers, whether young or new, are over five times more likely to be injured during their first four weeks on the job. IAPA's First 4 Weeks program is a comprehensive, job-specific health and safety orientation program that aims to train the supervisor and the new and young worker to reduce the risk of injuries on the job during the first month of work. The Occupational Safety and Health Council from Hong Kong was the winner in the Video Training category, and the BGN Berufsgenossenschaft Nahrungsmittel und Gaststatten) from Mannheim, Germany won in the Film-Video category.

As reported by Newstrack India, the International Labour Organization (ILO) delivered the report "Beyond deaths and injuries: The ILO's role in promoting safe and healthy jobs" at the World Congress. According to the ILO study, the estimated number of non-fatal occupational accidents involving more than four days loss of work increased from 268 million to 337 million between 2001 and 2003, largely due to increases in the number of workers worldwide. The estimated number of fatal accidents rose slightly over the same time period, from 351,000 to 358,000. Even though industrialized countries have seen a steady decline in the number of occupational accidents and diseases, this has not been the case for countries currently experiencing rapid industrialization or those too poor to maintain effective national occupational safety and health systems. The ILO report urges the integration of occupational safety and health principles and requirements into national and international action to address the consequences of and need to adapt to a rapidly changing world of work. Presently, efforts to tackle such issues are often dispersed and fragmented and fail to achieve a progressive reduction of work-related fatalities, accidents, and diseases.  

As reported by Safety Online, DuPont, which was one of the premier sponsors of the World Congress, released the report "Instilling a Safety Culture Across Continents: How Collaboration, Commitment and Accountability Help Organizations Achieve Measurable Results in Workplace Safety". The report was based on the the World Safety Declaration (WSD) survey results. The WSD was created by DuPont in 2005 to enable companies to find common ground in identifying and improving workplace safety.