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Promoting better occupational safety and health through effective labour inspection to make Decent Work a global reality - Düsseldorf International Conference “Making Decent Work a Global Goal and a National Reality”

From 18-20 September 2007 over 200 participants from 65 countries from all over the world met in Düsseldorf (Germany) to discuss the practical aspects of implementing international standards for decent work. The Conference was organized by the ILO in partnership with the German and Portuguese governments, the International Social Security Association, WHO, IALI and other international organizations, and with sponsorship from German partners Basi, Messe Düsseldorf, DGUV, Fraport AG, TÜV Rheinland, and BAD Team Prevent.

News | 09 October 2007

Düsseldorf, Germany, 18-20 September - The conference brought together experts from all corners of the globe to address the challenges of making decent work a practical reality for millions of workers worldwide. The main focus was on revitalizing labour inspection through national policy, programmes and social dialogue in order to reach this goal, but emphasis was also given to the need for sound national safety and health legislation and for good social dialogue between relevant stakeholders including those in the supply chain.

In the Opening Session, Dr. Toru Itani, ILO Director of Labour Protection, emphasized the need for international labour standards to be effectively implemented at national and enterprise levels, to make ‘Decent Work’ a reality. Speaking on behalf of the EU presidency, Mr. Fernando Medina, Secretary of State for Employment, Portugal, spoke of the need for effective policies and programmes for labour inspection, giving his own country as an example, while Ms. Lenia Samuel, Deputy Director, DG for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, European Commission, affirmed the EU’s commitment to Decent Work through the European Social Agenda.

Professor Michael Piore from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, then reviewed how recent international political and economic pressures had brought about greater governmental activity in the world of work, observing that this might indicate more of a reaction against the failures of neo-liberal ideology than a true commitment to progress. Other speakers remarked on efforts made to promote the concepts of decent work both nationally and internationally, notably through the ILO’s Decent Work Country Programmes.

Subsequently, Gerd Albracht, Coordinator, Development of Inspection Systems, ILO, emphasized the value of effective labour inspection systems in reducing occupational injuries and ill-health, noting the steps now being taken to strengthen national inspectorates. Speakers from America, Europe, Asia and Latin America described how the challenges of implementation were being addressed in their countries and regions.

Herbert Mai, Labour Director, Fraport AG, then reviewed the benefits of investing in occupational health and safety for all employees, including those in the supply chain, giving his own company as an example. Other speakers also discussed the positive benefits of reaching out to employees in the supply chain, including increases in productivity and motivation as well as reductions in workplace accidents and ill health.

The final session focused on prevention and social security, demonstrating that all stakeholders had a vested interest in the health and safety of workers. Maureen Shaw, President of IAPA, Canada, quoted several examples from North America to show the value of moving beyond compliance-based programs to performance-based ones; Joachim Breuer, Managing Director, DGUV, concurred, adding that prevention and insurance need to become an integral component of corporate culture.

Finally, a Round Table discussion provided an opportunity for panel members and conference participants to review issues raised during the conference, where emphasis was again given to the need for national labour inspectorates to be properly resourced and organized if international standards were to be properly implemented at the enterprise level.

In concluding the conference, Dr. Sameera Al-Tuwaijri, Director of the ILO’s SafeWork programme called for stronger political commitment to making decent work a national reality, for more of a culture of prevention and for wider partnerships in expanding both labour inspection and occupational safety and health services.