ISTANBUL (ILO News) – The XIX World Congress on Safety and Health at Work – the largest gathering of health and safety experts in the history of the Congress – held its closing session on Thursday, concluding that decent work is safe work and calling for a renewed commitment to build and maintain a global culture of prevention.
The Congress gathered some 5,400 participants from more than 140 countries, and was co-organized by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Social Security Association (ISSA), together with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, in Istanbul, Turkey, 11-15 September 2011.
A safety and health exhibition held in conjunction with the Congress attracted some 12,000 visitors. Since the first World Congress in 1955, the triennial event has provided the primary international platform for occupational safety and health (OSH) practitioners, specialists and policy-makers.
Addressing the opening ceremony of the World Congress, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasized that a productive economy required a competent and skilled workforce, and called for “protective and preventive” approaches to occupational safety and health that aim to provide working conditions which “all human beings deserve”.
Prior to the Congress, a Summit of Ministers for a Preventative Culture involving Ministers of Labour from all over the world was organized by the Government of Turkey. Thirty-three Ministers signed the Istanbul Declaration on Safety and Health at Work, recognizing that the right of workers to a healthy and safe working environment is a fundamental human right as well as a societal responsibility, and committing their countries to building sustainable national preventative safety and health cultures.
The Istanbul Declaration builds on the commitments of the Seoul Declaration signed in 2008, which is considered a blueprint for a comprehensive safety and health culture worldwide.
Concluding the World Congress, the Director of the ILO Programme on Safety and Health at Work and the Environment (SafeWork) Seiji Machida and the ISSA Secretary General Hans-Horst Konkolewsky called for a renewed commitment to a culture of occupational safety and health that could respond to a changing work environment caused by demographic changes and the evolving labour market.
Trends identified by Congress participants that are influencing safety and health in the workplace include the impact of the economic crisis, new technologies such as nanotechnologies, climate change and the effects of globalization, increased migration and the growth of the informal economy.
These developments represent serious challenges for the safety of workers that will require proactive and preventive approaches in addition to innovative solutions linking traditional OSH responsibilities with a broader health perspective, Congress participants were told. Experience shared at the Congress demonstrated that social dialogue, involving governments, workers and employers and an enhanced emphasis on education and training can be key to an improved safety and health culture.
In its report on Global Trends and Challenges on Occupational Safety and Health presented at the Congress, the ILO published the latest estimates on occupational safety and health. The report indicates that the overall number of fatal work-related accidents and diseases increased between 2003 and 2008, although the number of fatal accidents declined from 358,000 to 321,000, in the same period, due to significant advances in the field of prevention. However, the number of fatalities due to work-related diseases increased from 1.95 million to 2.02 million.
The preliminary results of a research project presented by the ISSA during the Congress confirmed the important economic benefits of investment in safety and health for companies. The study indicates that the cost-benefit potential for investments in prevention may be as strong as 1:2.2, and even higher in some cases. The cost of occupational safety and health training measures represents a fraction of the cost of rehabilitation and absenteeism, which represent a growing financial burden for social security systems in many regions.
The 8th International Film and Multimedia Festival held during the World Congress, attracted 232 entries from 30 countries. An international jury awarded first prizes to films from Brazil, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In the multimedia category, the first prize was given to a production from Sweden. The Festival was jointly organized by two of the ISSA Prevention Sections: "Electricity" and "Information". The full results of the International Film and Multimedia Festival are available on the ISSA website: www.issa.int
The Congress concluded with an invitation by the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) to host the next World Congress in collaboration with the ILO and the ISSA, in Frankfurt, Germany, 24 to 27 August 2014.
For more information on the XIX World Congress on Safety and Health at Work visit: www.ilo.org/oshcongress2011