ICOH 2018: Incorporating prevention and health in corporate policies (1/2)

A delegation of Mensura team members are attending ICOH 2018, the 32nd International Congress on Occupational Health, with educational posters and presentations. While in Ireland, they will be reporting on the congress in two blog posts.

ICOH is clearly not a small-scale event. This year, the congress welcomes more than 2,100 participants from 112 different nations, while over 1,000 abstracts were submitted and more than 500 speakers invited. Mensura is bringing eight informational posters and three presentations.  

Mensura shares knowledge

Gerrit Pollentier discussed best practices for a multidisciplinary project aimed at optimising ergonomic work conditions in a distribution centre of a leading sports brand. Mathieu Verbrugghe talked about influencing factors of long-term absenteeism (> 1 month) based on a study among 2,000 Belgian employees.

Karolien Lauwers dealt with the topic of ‘whole body vibration’ and body posture stress among bus drivers, as well as the risk of lower back strain. She initially prepared a poster only but was then asked by ICOH to add a presentation because of the topic’s relevance and the interesting facts covered.  

These are the presentations our team enjoyed the most:

‘Vision Zero: A world of work without fatal and serious accidents and diseases’

Hans-Horst Konkolewsky is firmly convinced that workplace prevention measures should always be seen as an investment, and not a cost. Occupational injuries and illnesses can be prevented and there are always several causes at play. A solid prevention culture can help eliminate those risks.  

The Vision Zero approach is based on 7 golden rules:

1. Take leadership – demonstrate commitment

2. Identify hazards – control risks

3. Define targets – develop programmes

4. Ensure a safe and healthy system – be well-organised

5. Ensure safety and health in machines, equipment and workplaces

6. Improve qualifications – develop competence

7. Invest in people – motivate by participation

A flexible approach adjusted to the needs of the workplace or to local regulations is recommended. The Vision Zero approach is an ongoing process and requires the commitment of management as well as regular dialogue with workers. SMEs need a more small-scale approach when implementing Vision Zero, which is why the DIAGNEO tool was designed.

More info: https://visionzero.global

‘Total Worker Health®: From concept to reality’

Dr. Bonnie Rogers defines Total Worker Health® (TWH) as “policies, programmes and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being.” This holistic approach acknowledges risk factors that contribute to health problems previously considered unrelated to work.

A concrete recommendation from Dr. Rogers was to include worker health in corporate policies, just as safety, in order to reduce illness-related absenteeism and maximise productivity. According to Dr. Rogers, this is absolutely essential in view of the ageing working population.

More info: Total Worker Health®

Praise and criticism

Bart Vriesacker, prevention advisor on psychosocial aspects, is full of praise: “We are all here with one common goal: how to improve the safety and health of workers. There are plenty of research results and statistics to be taken in, such as this one: according to a Canadian study conducted internationally (Zorianna Hyworon, InfoTech Inc), depression is causing a global loss in productivity of 18.7% at an average cost of $8,000 per affected worker. To me, this is a reminder of why I do what I do.”

However, Bart has some criticism as well. “Stress is usually viewed as the bad guy. We all know stress can be harmful to our health, but unfortunately, too many scientists still believe stress is solely a negative experience. They also tend to overlook our coping mechanisms. How well or poorly we cope with it will affect whether or not we develop negative stress! The same stress is what drives my colleagues Karolien Lauwers and Mathieu Verbrugghe to deliver an outstanding presentation and to put Mensura on the global map.”

The second and last blog post about ICOH 2018 will be published on 8 May.