A major theme of the World Congress of Safety and Health 2017 is the extension and strengthening of the Vision Zero concept. One of major advocates of this is Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, of the International Social Security Association. Konkolewsky sees Vision Zero as a “life changer”.
Any safety concept that includes the word “zero” is inflammatory to some sectors of the Australian occupational health and safety (OHS) profession as is evident by some of the tweets received by @SafetyOz over the last few hours. Late on Day One a question from the audience also expressed wariness over the use of the concept. However SafetyAtWorkBlog was able to interview Konkolewsky at the congress over a decade after our first interview, when he was head of EU-OSHA. We outlined the Australian perspective – “Zero Harm” – and his clarification of Vision Zero is important.
Below is audio of the exclusive seven minute interview.
In front of thousands of delegates and dignitaries, the 21st World Congress on Safety and Health was officially opened yesterday by the Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
There are three themes of this conference:
- Vision Zero – From Vision to Reality
- Healthy work—Healthy life
- People-centred prevention
This week’s SAFETYconnect conference hosted by the NSCA Foundation in Sydney had a very good strike rate of interesting speakers on its first day. Only one speaker missed the safety mark – it was as if they had been handed a marketing presentation instead of safety and, regardless of the safety audience, give it anyway.
This conference was notable for the way that the ‘safety differently’/Safety II movement has moved into mainstream safety management. The most obvious example of this was a presentation by QantasLink.
James Wood was injured during work on an Australian mine site in 1985 resulting in spinal cord damage and other complications. For a long time, James has been telling his story to Australian workers for them to understand the risks they face, primarily, at work. I caught up with James on a very cold morning at a lovely café in Victoria’s Yarra Valley earlier this month.
SAWB: James, I heard you talk about your workplace injury and the disruption and the consequences of that at least 15 years ago at a breakfast meeting. It was extremely effective, and a powerful message. Fifteen years later you’re still doing that. Why tell your story? Why would anybody want to hear it?
JW: Well, there’s probably a couple of answers, Kevin. I share my story and my experiences because I know how my workplace accident changed my life and I know how it affected a lot of the people around me at the time. My family, workmates, friends. I believe that by sharing my story, I can give people a little bit of information about what it’s like to get hurt at work or even away from work.
I honestly hope that by telling people how I got hurt and how it changed my life, it can give people the reason to maybe use some of the training that we’re all given. To use the systems and the procedures that most workplaces have and try and stop somebody else from getting hurt.
The most recent stuff-up by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia has strengthened calls for a Royal Commission into Australia’s finance and banking sector. This is of interest to workplace safety professionals because it contains the liveliest current discussion about corporate cultures – how flawed ones are supposedly behind the errors and how proactive ones are supposed to be the solution.
Occurring at the same time is a growing social movement that is recalibrating occupational health and safety (OHS) to see workers as humans of value rather than units of labour.
Paralleling all of this is increased attention on the sociology and psychology of work, perhaps linked to a decline in the neoliberalism of the past forty years. As Australia enters the time of OHS conferences and Work Safe Month in October, it may be worth considering a couple of fundamental questions, such as absolute safety, AFAIRP, and invisible hazards.