The World Congress Digital Meeting has highlighted how the COVID-19 pandemic has put occupational safety and health (OSH) centre stage and accelerated innovation in this area. The World Congress is jointly organized by the International Social Security Association (ISSA) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), and hosted by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety and the Canadian Institute for Work & Health.
Due to the global pandemic, the XXII World Congress for Safety and Health at Work in Toronto, Canada, has been postponed until 19-22 September 2021. The Digital Meeting on 5-6 October was therefore an occasion to reflect on the impact of COVID-19 on the world of work, health and safety at work, and how to build a strong culture of prevention.
Act today, prepare for tomorrow
In her opening statements, Filomena Tassi, Minister of Labour of the Government of Canada, stressed the importance of focussing on occupational safety and health today, in order to be well prepared for the economic recovery once the pandemic has been surmounted. While the ISSA President, Professor Joachim Breuer, noted how “COVID-19 has put occupational health and safety on top of the policy agenda”, Director General Guy Ryder of the ILO stressed the need for concerted action between workers, businesses and workplaces in order to tackle the challenge effectively.
Professor Breuer also stressed how national governments have focussed on social security to mitigate the social and economic impact of the coronavirus crisis. The ISSA COVID-19 monitor has mapped social security measures from over 200 countries, and analysed how safety and health can save lives during the pandemic. Another important aspect the ISSA has looked at is how countries deal with COVID-19 as an occupational disease. Needless to say, the pandemic has forced all relevant stakeholders to revisit their approach to safety and health at work, and how they handle work-related illness.
As part of the World Congress, the Global Forum for Work Injury Insurance was organized on 6 October by the ISSA and hosted by the Social Insurance Fund of the Russian Federation. In his introductory remarks, ISSA Secretary General Marcelo Abi-Ramia Caetano stressed that “COVID-19 has pushed society into new work patterns, such as teleworking, into new life-styles and into social distancing.” The Russian State Secretary and Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Protection, Andrey Pudov, focussed on the need for timely measures to face this new reality. Stefan Hussy from the German Social Accident Insurance and Chair of the ISSA Technical Commission on Insurance against Employment Accidents and Occupational Diseases stressed the need to innovate and evolve the world of work, and to work together to develop an eco-system of safe and healthy workplaces. “As our economies change, we need to change, but we don’t need to do it alone,” he said.
Vision Zero and building a culture of prevention
Two other sessions organized by the ISSA during the World Congress Digital Meeting focussed on building training capacity and promotion in the area of prevention. On Monday 5 October, a new Vision Zero Accredited Trainer programme was launched in partnership with Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). This is a major step forward in building quality training capacity based on the 7 Golden Rules of the Vision Zero campaign. Almost 1300 OSH trainers have signed up in support of the Vision Zero campaign for safety, health and wellbeing at work. The new train-the-trainers course will give them an opportunity to receive accreditation by IOSH. “This is a time for each safety and health professional to harness the momentum of Vision Zero.,” said IOSH Chair of Trustees Bill Gunnyeon. Another key feature of this session, was the presentation of the newly launched Vision Zero Proactive Leading Indicators, by Helmut Ehnes, Chair of the ISSA Vision Zero Steering Committee.
The International Media Festival for Prevention Short List Announcement session, also on 6 October, was an opportunity to present the 50 best contributions to the competition. Led by Martina Hesse-Spötter, Chair of the ISSA Special Commission on Prevention, excellent multimedia contributions from around the world were presented in a smooth-run session that was worthy of a prize itself. A number of the contributions were linked to the Vision Zero campaign. The IMFP is an integral part of the World Congress and highlights that successful prevention work can be advanced through outstanding creative multimedia initiatives. The winner will be presented at the XXII World Congress for Safety and Health at Work in Toronto, Canada, in September next year.