World Congress on Safety and Health at Work

inspires Through Innovative Formats & Experiences

World Congress on Safety and Health at Work
World Congress on Safety and Health at Work - © DGUV

World Congress on Safety and Health at Work Inspires Through Innovative Formats & Experiences

The Why – Executive Summary

The first World Congress on Safety and Health at Work was held in 1955 in Rome with the mission of collecting and sharing information on best practices in the area of prevention. It has been held every 3 years since and is the largest gathering for the international occupational safety and health community in the world. It is organized by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Social Security Association (ISSA) together with a national host. Each time, a different country is the host. The most recent World Congress in 2014, its 20th anniversary event, was held in Frankfurt, Germany and was hosted by the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV), the umbrella association of the accident insurance institutions for the industrial and public sectors in Germany.

Vision Zero - a world without fatal or severe occupational accidents

Every year 2.3 million people worldwide die as a result of occupational illnesses and accidents at work and another 860,000 are injured each day according to the ILO, the direct or indirect cost of these accidents and illness at work is estimated at US$ 2.8 trillion worldwide. The conference organizers feel passionately that these statistics can and must be reduced. Their goal for the Congress in Frankfurt was ambitious—to convince health experts and decision makers of the need for a comprehensive culture of prevention leading to Vision Zero—a world without fatal or severe occupational accidents and occupational diseases.

The Where, Who & How - Meeting Details

Almost 4,000 attendees convened at the Messe Frankfurt including high-ranking government officials, politicians, safety and health experts,  social partners and industry representatives. Frankfurt, with its strong work safety community and expertise at area companies, state of the art conference facilities, easy access to numerous international non-stop flights and large assortment of accommodation and dining options was a great location for these important discussions.

The congress organizers were passionate about creating an innovative and sustainable World Congress with lively discussions and exchange of knowledge, practices and experience between the attendees. It was crucial that they could immediately put these best practices into use upon returning home to prevent more accidents and injuries at work.

New trend-Setting Event formats

To accomplish this goal the organizers felt a new congress model must be created. With the help of 3c Creative Communication Concepts GmbH, a communications agency based in Munich, they engineered the Congress to be completely interactive.

New, trend-setting event formats such as the Forum for Prevention (Messe Hall 3) with its Action Stage and exchange of presenters and visitors, the Agora (active outside area), the Special Media Session etc. left a lasting impression on participants and offered a platform for personal exchange.

Symposia and Technical Sessions were held in rooms with special designs to enhance the interaction between presenters and participants. To create more dynamic collaborative talks the DGUV offered speakers and organizers of the symposia a methodical toolbox as well as workshops. The toolbox provided systematic assistance in the organizational and interactive design of the sessions ranging from suggestions on PowerPoint design to interactive talks and interior room set up.

International Media Festival for Prevention

Additionally, a room nearby the Entrance Hall (placed at the Forum) was transformed into a movie theater for the International Media Festival for Prevention (IMFP) complete with 1,500 servings of popcorn and featuring over 290 video submissions from 33 countries. Media lounges in the Entrance Hall and Messe Hall 3 were built so that attendees could network and continue to discuss the films and multimedia-applications in smaller groups.

Throughout the event the Team Guest Events from the Messe Frankfurt that meeting planners work with when staging a convention or conference on the Frankfurt exhibition ground or Kap Europa worked seamlessly with the organizers to turn their complex plans into reality. Visitors at the World Congress were impressed by the 55 foot long and 19 foot wide Pro LED wall built by Gahrens + Battermann in Harmony Hall, the site of the opening and closing ceremonies.

Yet another design feat was the Forum for Prevention, the communicative center of the congress occupying 75,000 square feet of space in Messe Hall 3. It also enabled 280 different presentations from 45 different countries to occur simultaneously. During a “walk and talk” presenters connected with attendees from all over the world. Participants rated the presentations with innovation stars by pinning them on the presentation boards. The contributions with the most stars then received prizes in the course of the Congress.

Site visits to 18 different companies

Moving beyond the footprint of the conference venue itself, the learning and knowledge exchange continued with site visits to Frankfurt area German companies—one of the delegates’ favorite aspects of the week. Here attendees connected with local experts to experience the German prevention culture and implementation of best practices on health and safety at work first hand at 18 different companies such as Rolls Royce, Deutsche Bank, Alcon, Deutsche Post, Merck and others.

Other highlights of the Congress included the German night in Festhalle, which enabled guests to travel through the modern and innovative economic, scientific and cultural landscape of Germany. The soaring domed structure of the Festhalle was endowed with typically German scenery—mountains, forests and seas. It created an impressive backdrop for the evening of inspiring music and exuberant dancing and with people at the event – that was a lasting memory for many participants.

At the Agora, the open-air congress space, participants were able to join and try their hand at occupational safety in the forestry and road safety industries. The outdoor program also offered fitness programs, coordination training sessions and health checks.

Lastly a safety and health at work trade fair with 250 exhibitors and over 300,000 square feet of exhibition space was also held as a supporting event immediately following the World Congress.

The Wow – The Results & Destination Difference

“Germany with its long history of successful occupational safety and health (OSH) and Frankfurt in particular with its world-renowned companies and institutions gave the participants of the World Congress an insightful view of successful health and safety measures at work,” said Sabine Herbst, Dep. Project Manager of the DGUV for the World Congress 2014. “It was the ideal location for the worldwide OSH community to discuss and develop new insights that will continue to inspire progress towards achieving a culture of prevention on a global scale with Vision Zero as a goal.”

It showed in the turnout figures that 3,980 participants attended from 143 countries from which more than 53% were from abroad (47% from the host country Germany), more than ever before in the history of the event. Attendees and influential guests engaged in meaningful idea exchange and worked towards realizing a world with no fatal occupational accidents or occupational diseases.

Showing both local and global expertise in safety and health at work, some of the noteworthy dignitaries at the event included: Andrea Nahles, the German Minister for Labor and Social Affairs, Laura Räty, Finnish Minister for Social Affairs, as well as Xu Shaochuan, Vice Minister of the State Authority for Work Safety in China and Guy Ryder, president of ILO.

The expectations of the participants were exceeded

A comprehensive survey of attendees conducted after the conference found that the expectations of the participants were not only met, but also exceeded, they were not merely satisfied, but also impressed; and they were motivated to implement their newly acquired knowledge in their work. The World Congress was rated with an overall average of 1.8– a very good result (based on a scale of 1-6 with one being best and 6 being the lowest score possible).

On the website of the World Congress ( Felicia Lopez Ascarza, CEO of Risk Assessment and Environmental S.A.C, located in Lima, Peru commented, “The management, organization, care and staff collaboration with conference participants, was excellent. I learned new prevention measures and shared knowledge and experiences with fellow experts in health and safety at work. I found new friends and made new contacts. It’s an event that will remain in my memory always.”