The XXI World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in Singapore 2017 proved to be a true milestone for VISION ZERO and the Seven Golden Rules, highlighted in literally every keynote. Singapore demonstrated impressively that the country was the ideal host, showing a true commitment by experts and the industry alike. Businesses in Singapore proved how serious health and safety at work are taken in all facets. With impulses from the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Social Security Association (ISSA) and Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower, Congress President Ho Siong Hin created an event the delegates will never forget. In the end, every delegate was convinced that VISION ZERO is definitely possible; the address of William Tan would have ultimately made the last person in doubt realize this. The neuroscientist, physician, marathon finisher and Paralympics athlete told his personal story of mastering challenges and seizing opportunities where others would see problems: In his words, “I-m-possible”. Singapore could not have concluded with a better final chord.
1 VISION ZERO – ISSA launches global campaign for accidents, diseases and harm at work
The International Social Security Association (ISSA) launched its worldwide prevention strategy in a first ever global ISSA campaign to improve safety, health and wellbeing at work (Figure 1). ISSA’s VISION ZERO prevention strategy and the “Seven Golden Rules” are an adaption of ISSA Mining, now made available to all sectors of industry. ISSA’s global approach aims to engage companies worldwide to systematically cut down on occupational accidents and diseases by investing in a healthy and motivated workforce (Figure 2).
Is a world without accidents, diseases or harm at work possible? “Yes” says the ISSA at the XXI World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in Singapore 2017. “VISION ZERO stands for the belief that any workplace accident or a disease is not bad luck or predetermined but has specific causes,” says ISSA President Joachim Breuer. “That’s why all occupational accidents and diseases are preventable.”
This objective can be achieved by integrating prevention systematically in all aspects of business and by going beyond the classical safety issues. “While it is important to further reduce accident risks we strongly believe that in todays’ complex and demanding world of work, companies need to focus more on health risks including those that negatively influence people’s wellbeing,” adds ISSA’s Secretary-General Hans-Horst Konkolewsky. “A workplace without accidents, diseases and harm is only possible if both the safety, health and wellbeing of people is properly looked after.”
2 Seven Golden Rules: Now across sectors
To support a more systematic and integrated approach to prevention the campaign provides VISION ZERO companies and partners with seven golden rules and practical checklists, as well as training material, published on the campaign website.
The seven golden rules have been developed in mining with prevention experts from companies, authorities and social partners and have been successfully tested. Together with additional material they form a practical toolbox for companies to build a strong workplace prevention culture.
2.1 Prevention pays
Implementing the seven golden rules obviously represents an investment for companies – but one that pays off. International research by the ISSA on the return on investments shows that every dollar invested in safety and health generates a potential positive economic benefit of more than two dollars. “It is widely recognized that prevention pays and that a healthy and motivated workforce is critical to business performance. This is why many important companies have expressed a strong interest in joining the VISION ZERO campaign,” Konkolewsky comments.
2.2 Businesses and institutions around the globe action
The success of the VISION ZERO strategy depends on the active participation by international and national partner organizations to reach out to as many companies worldwide as possible. Positively, important partners such as WHO, US OSHA, Singapore Ministry of Manpower, US Department of Labor – Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) and prominent companies including Siemens, Rolls Royce, Keppel Offshore & Marine and Boehringer Ingelheim have already pledged their support.
Lars Hoffmann, Head of Safety at Siemens adds: “Everyone should be able to rely on a safe working environment at all times so that they can return to their family and friends healthy and safe. Caring for people and the environment is a commitment that goes beyond profit. Siemens takes this social responsibility for occupational health and safety very seriously. VISION ZERO starts with those who hold responsibility, but it can only become a living culture if everyone contributes.”
Konkolewsky expects that following the launch many companies, governments and OSH institutions and networks will join the campaign: “It is time for action and only together we can improve the safety, health and wellbeing of millions of people and turn VISION ZERO into reality”.
2.3 Future forms of work and impact on occupational safety and health
To discuss differences in the OSH balance among individual countries and sectors, experts met at a high-level event. At the event, new figures were introduced, assembled by the ILO and the WHO (Figure 3). According to the latest estimates 2017, the yearly number of fatal work accidents increased to 380,500 compared to an estimated 341,373 determined in 2014. In the same timeframe, the non-fatal accidents leading to at least four days of absence from work increased from 302 million to 374 million. The fatalities caused by work-related disease went up from 1.98 million per year in 2014 to 2.4 million per year in 2017. The cases of occupational cancer account for 742,000 (666,000 in the 2014 figures).
3 Answers to respond to VIZION ZERO from all over the world at ISSA Mining’s Symposium
Nine international speakers shared their experience on implementing the measures as prescribed by the Seven Golden Rules in the symposium “Management of OSH in the mining sector: Seven golden rules in mining” (Figure 4).
No less than 34 contributions of an excellent quality were submitted from all over the world. With a total presentation time of two hours, the organizers at ISSA Mining opted to give as many submitters as possible a chance to speak, resulting in a large regional diversity. The speakers from all continents gave first-hand insight considering all facets of prevention and touching each one of the Seven Golden Rules.
4 VISION ZERO on the go
ISSA’s Technical Session shed a light in VISION ZERO from different perspectives: those of companies, agencies, research, insurers and regulators (Figure 5). During the introduction, moderator Walter Eichendorf explained how VISION ZERO evolved in road safety and described the history throughout the World Congresses. Eichendorf introduced the role of the ILO, administrating the “VISION ZERO Fund” and the role of the ISSA in implementing the strategy and reaching out to companies worldwide.
Renowned personalities have offered their support as VISION ZERO ambassadors. Michael López-Alegría (Figure 6), a former NASA astronaut and Commander of the International Space Station is one of the first: “VISION ZERO is a very effective strategy to ensure safety, health and wellbeing, in space as well as on earth. Risk assessment, preparation and training are keys to return safely to the earth. But most important was my leadership and commitment to “safety first”. That’s why safety issues were part of any single decision I made in orbit and on the ground.”
4.1 The business perspective
Patrick Murphy, Senior HSE Business Executive of Origin Energy and Chairman of the Safety Institute of Australia, shared the keynote “Why companies should support VISION ZERO”.
Three renowned business leaders who believe in VISION ZERO explained their view on Golden Rule No 1, leadership, and on companies’ success in reducing harm:
- Wong Chit Sieng, Chief Corporate Officer (CEO) of Singapore Power, Singapore;
- José Raúl González, CEO of Grupo Cementos Progreso, Guatemala; and
- Brian Long, Group Head of Safety and Sustainability of Lendlease, Australia.
Sieng explained Singapore Power’s safety pledge: “Safety is our highest priority. Every life is precious. Every accident is avoidable. We uphold safe practices and strive for zero accident.” Thousands of management walkabouts, safety inspections, safety meetings and individual safety goals laid the foundation for the impressive reduction in accident figures the enterprise achieved
González had a powerful message to share with the audience regarding accident statistics, having managed to reduce the number of accidents to an historic all low. The commitment of the board of directors and the top management played a vital role, including monthly visits to plants. Recognized by the certificate “Great Place to Work” repeatedly, three consecutive years “World’s Most Ethical Company” and winners of the International Safety Award of the British Safety Council 2016 and 2017.
Long discussed his experiences with leadership and safety and health at work, leading to a continuous decrease in fatalities, with no more occurring since 2013. Leadership has contributed to establish a safety culture (or zero harm culture). If somebody asked you to help them to set up a similar zero-harm culture in their company, what would you tell them? What should they do to succeed? Long stated six key lessons were learned:
- Inspire with a vision.
- Leader must have a felt and genuine commitment.
- Focus on fatalities and potential fatalities.
- Be willing to adapt as you go.
- Leverage the skills and knowledge of a partner.
- Always demonstrate humility and unease.
4.2 The organizations perspective
The second group of VISION ZERO supporters came from non-profit organisations, policy makers, researchers and accident insurers contributing to VISION ZERO:
- Cristian Moraga Torres, General Director of Mutual for Safety CChC, Chile, represented social security institutions;
- Cameron Mustard, President & Senior Scientist from the Institute for Work & Health Ontario, Canada, represented OSH Institutes; and
- Ho Siong Hin, Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health at the Ministry of Manpower, Singapore, represented governments.
Moraga Torres explained how Mutual took VISION ZERO as reference to improve the safety model as the rules are simple and clear and can be applied by almost any company regardless of size or economic activity.
Mustard showed how the Institute for Work & Health conducted a case study in Canada on the electrical utility sector, representing 50,000 workers. The injury frequency could be reduced from 1,100 to 390 over a ten year period, considering cases resulting in lost work time.
Siong Hin explained Singapore’s strong motivation to support VISION ZERO, as clearly visible in the 2017 World Congress.
4.3 Supporting VISION ZERO – moving forward
The session “Supporting VISION ZERO – moving forward” put the emphasis on the next steps of the VISION ZERO Campaign. Shelly Frost, Director for Strategic Development at IOSH, UK, and Helmut Ehnes, heading the Prevention Department of the German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the Raw Materials and Chemical Industry (BG RCI), explained their views of VISION ZERO. Both are board members of ISSA prevention sections and driving forces behind ISSA’s new approach and material, including the Guide and seminars. Their outlook pointed to events in Thailand and Germany in September and October of this year for which regional launches of VISION ZERO were scheduled. Ehnes explained how the VISION ZERO prevention strategy and its Seven Golden Rules started (Figure 7): While being asked for a talk on the occasion of Vietnam’s National Safety Week in 2012, he aimed to explain the essentials of prevention, using a simple approach, easy phrasing, using common sense, to appeal to employers and mangers as well, not only prevention experts. The audience’s positive response as well as future experienced confirmed the approach works well.
5 Next stop towards the aim of “zero harm”: Canada
The XXII World Congress on Safety and Health at Work will be hosted by Canada in 2020.