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World Congress calls for new global partnership to improve work safety

The XVIII World Congress on Safety and Health at Work concluded with calls for a new global partnership to strengthen safety and health in the workplace, and to reinforce efforts to reduce fatalities and illness.

News | 02 July 2008

SEOUL (ILO Online) - The XVIII World Congress on Safety and Health at Work concluded with calls for a new global partnership to strengthen safety and health in the workplace, and to reinforce efforts to reduce fatalities and illness.

Significantly improving the global occupational safety and health record will require new approaches, according to keynote speaker Dr. Jeffrey A. McNeeley, Chief Scientist at the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), noting remarkable convergence between the environmental and occupational safety agendas.

Speaking at the closing ceremony, Dr. McNeeley suggested that the occupational safety and prevention community could learn valuable lessons from the climate change experience. A strong scientific consensus, public awareness, economic incentives, new partnerships and a solid legal basis were all conditions for creating global change, he said.

Earlier in the Congress, the ILO highlighted the need for safer workplaces in a new report, Beyond deaths and injuries: The ILO’s role in promoting safe and healthy jobs, presented by Dr. Sameera Al-Tuwaijri, Director of the International Labour Office's SafeWork programme. "We need to hold the world responsible for the fact that there is so much unnecessary death and human suffering," said Dr. Al-Tuwaijri, calling for a new synergy of the various safety and health actors to ensure more effective strategies and policies.

The Congress was preceded by the first high-level Safety and Health Summit, that gathered some 50 high-level representatives, including government ministers, CEOs of major multinational companies, social security leaders, senior safety and health experts, and representatives of employers and workers.

The Summit participants signed an unprecedented Declaration on Safety and Health, which sets a benchmark for employers, workers and governments to reinforce cooperation to reduce workplace accidents and diseases.

The Congress, which took place in Seoul, Republic of Korea, 29 June - 2 July 2008, gathered close to 4,500 occupational safety and health professionals and other participants from over 120 countries, making it the largest gathering in the event's 60-year history.

The diverse programme included state-of-the-art technical sessions, over 40 symposia, poster sessions and regional meetings aimed at promoting sharing of knowledge and good practice among the participants. An international exhibition of safety and health organizations and products was held in parallel to the Congress.

During the Congress, participants recognized that globalization, migration and pressure to increase productivity posed new challenges to the safety and health of workers. However, studies confirm that investing in training, prevention and better working conditions makes good business sense because healthier and happier workers make for more productive enterprises, proving that prevention pays.

During the closing plenary, Mr. Mustafa Konuk, Deputy Undersecretary at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security of Turkey, confirmed the invitation of his country to host the 19th World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, in Istanbul in 2011, in collaboration with the ILO and the ISSA.

Film and multimedia provide important tools for education, training and public awareness on safety and health issues; 115 films and 50 multimedia presentations were shown at the 7th International Film and Multimedia Festival that was organized during the World Congress.

Announcing the results, the Chair of the ISSA Prevention Section, Marc De Greef, praised the quality of the entries, that were judged on their effectiveness, the treatment of their subject and the overall impression. The full list of winners is available on the ISSA Website:

The triennial Congress on Safety and Health at Work is jointly organized by the and the International Social Security Association (ISSA) and the International Labour Organization (ILO). The XVIII World Congress is hosted by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA).