A+A Trade Fair and Conference with Strong Focus on Prevention
From 5-8 November the International Congress of A+A - Safety and Health at Work - will be held for the 33rd time now at the Düsseldorf Congress Center. The organiser, Basi, invites all experts to use the four congress days to gather information on and discuss the complete spectrum of current issues in safety, health and ergonomics.
In 60 lecture series presented at the Congress running concurrently with the A+A trade fair, 350 high-calibre experts from political, research and practical fields concerned with safety and health at work will discuss current developments in society, reform projects in national and European policy, technical and organisational innovations as well as the latest scientific findings. 5,000 delegates are expected to attend the Congress. The partner country of A+A 2013 is Turkey. This is why the Turkish Labour Minister Faruk Celik is expected to be present at the opening event.
Mega Theme "Work and Health"
The "Work and Health" theme currently enjoys as much public attention as ever. Especially stress, psychological strain and disorders as well as the "burn-out syndrome" as a focal health problem (at least in Germany) are nearly omnipresent in the media but also in politics and business.
The public visibility of occupational safety and health themes does not always correspond to their "real" importance for prevention. In its "Stressreport Deutschland 2012" the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) has now submitted facts and figures for this theme on the basis of a survey of the employed conducted jointly with the Federal Institute for Vocational Training (BiBB) in 2011/12. 58% of the in total 20,000 people polled mentioned multi-tasking as a job profile requirement followed by pressure to perform (52%), repetitive work processes (50%) and disruptions at the workplace (44%). Workers perceived time pressure and the pressure to perform as constituting a particular burden for them (34% of those polled). The "Stressreport" also narrows down the on-going restructuring activities in modern working life as a particular focus of pressure.
In the opinion of those polled, however, the level of psychological strain as a whole has remained almost unchanged since 2006.
This means "mental" requirements and stress in the widest sense of the word in fact rank top of today's stress agenda. And there are many indications that a "burnt-out" man who is exposed to a kind of communication overkill and constantly expected to be creative and positive and ready to perfectly organise and market himself, could basically become the prototype for the negative consequences of the modern working (and living) conditions on health. (Carmen Losmann has covered this new working world in her impressive film "Work Hard - Play Hard", which will also be screened at A+A as part of the art and theatre festival complete with a Q&A session with the film director). Many studies also evidence the most important "antidotes" such as good leadership, general support especially from superiors and colleagues as well as sufficient recreation and building resilience.
The importance of stress and psychological as well as organisational burdens by no means belittles such physical burdens as noise, hazardous substances or lifting and carrying of heavy loads. The BAuA's aforementioned large-scale survey already provided evidence of these burdens. With the exception of extreme physical burdens and fatal risks these have not decreased across the board - on the contrary, they have increased in many areas - like in the construction industry where numbers are rising - or completely new areas. Irrespective of this, the growing significance of mental stress and disorders is almost symbolic of the turning point facing the field of health and safety at work.
Potential in Prevention
The concept of occupational health originated as a human issue. This ethical-political focus continues to serve as a compass and main driver. Compared to the situation 30 years ago, however, safety and health at the workplace now feature in a new economic context. Today, we can clearly evidence that economically sustainable, "safe and healthy" companies depend on safe, healthy and ergonomic working conditions.
2011 saw over 178,000 people retire from active working life for medical reasons in Germany. A current study puts the social costs of early retirement at over EUR 20 billion per year; half of these costs can be seen as a consequence of labour-induced burdens.
With an average incapacity to work of 12.6 days per worker, Germany posted 460.6 million days of absenteeism in 2011. Depending on the volume of incapacity to work, the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that the resulting production losses impacting the national economy total EUR 45.7 billion and puts the loss of gross value added at EUR 79.5 billion.
Prevention is an investment in the future. Retaining and promoting staff health and their ability to perform is therefore increasing in importance for the business community and for social security and policy-makers. A safe and healthy working environment decisively contributes to companies' ability to innovate and compete. Many corporate case studies prove that safety and health measures at the workplace result in lower staff turnaround, improved process and product quality and improve the company's image.
Health protection and promotion are essential prerequisites for staff motivation and creativity. Especially in highly developed economies the "human factor", human skills and the quality of work, is of vital importance in the global competition between different locations. This has also become especially clear in the past economic crisis despite the doubtlessly negative consequences above all in the "short-term economy". Effective and efficient prevention can sustainably improve a person's quality of life, mobility and ability to perform and reduce a major share of the otherwise required (consequential) costs of illness. All too soon, economising on safety, health and ergonomics often proves bad planning also in business terms.
This means that safety and health at the workplace benefits not only the workforce. The economic potential of prevention is also substantial and must therefore be exploited markedly better especially in view of the "ageing" societies in Europe. This is precisely the strategy pursued by modern-day occupational safety and health when incorporated in business process flows as a discipline. Today, it can depend on a great awareness for safety and health risks and favourable economic arguments in Germany and Europe but increasingly also in the rest of the world.
The international sessions of the A+A Congress programme particularly feature the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the International Social Security Association (ISSA), the European OH&S Agency, Turkey as a partner country of A+A 2013, international OSH associations and the technical sessions with German/English interpretation. The focal themes of the international technical sessions revolve around such classic health & safety themes as Personal Protective Equipment, occupational diseases, testing and certification, transport and road safety, international education standards in prevention as well as safety coordinators on construction sites.
ILO Conference "Make it Visible - Occupational Diseases"
The recognition, prevention of and damages paid for occupational diseases on a global scale are the subjects of the 2-day conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as part of the A+A Congress. The primary issues addressed will be asbestos-induced and musculoskeletal disorders as well as psycho-mental illnesses. Also centre stage at the event will be the creation of a national, legal framework as well as the role of labour inspectorates and the two sides of industry.
Partner Country Turkey
Turkey is the partner country of A+A 2013. The Turkish Labour Minister, Mr. Faruk Celik, is expected to attend the A+A opening event. As part of the partner country activities a Turkish-German OSH dialogue will be held on the afternoon of the opening day of A+A. This expert discussion will focus on the OSH strategies of both countries, PPE and risk assessment, to name but a few topics.
Health & Safety in Logistics and Transport, Security at Construction Sites
A 1-day event organised in partnership with the European OH&S Agency and the German Road Safety Council will deal with health & safety at work and road safety in logistics and transport on a European scale.