Month: March 2012

Thoughts from ICOH

Date Issued:

Steve Horvath and P.K. Abeytunga

Hola amigos and amigas from the 30th International Congress on Occupational Health in Mexico.

The agenda over the last few days has been hectic.  Psychosocial issues have been a particularly significant topic of discussion from all areas of the world.  Non-communicable diseases and integrating health care delivery with occupational health were also major topics of discussion.

I was asked to present the discussions and conclusions of a round table discussion on knowledge transfer and increasing the effectiveness of occupational health communication.  It was a discussion I found fascinating because it defined in my mind the problem and galvanized the issues for me – although I do not believe all saw it from my perspective.

I noted in my presentation that while we discussed the merits and limitations of the Internet as a delivery vehicle, we were behaving a lot like the Web.  Free flowing ideas going not only in two directions, but in a number of directions: creating a form of network of open dialogue.

Today’s workers are turning to the Internet for information, and it is incumbent on occupational health and safety professionals everywhere to reach out directly to workers and engage them in a dialogue about their needs.  For the first time, the Internet and social media tools have allowed us to hear directly what the workforce needs.  What they are looking for is information that is credible, understandable, relevant and unbiased.  I believe the organizations that best tap into that resource will be the most effective in instilling change and creating healthy workplaces.

There are those that still see the professional’s role as evaluating data and collating it in a format that can be delivered through a network of other professionals. It is about building competencies in communities.  At a local level it is an effective educational tool, but that is not where CCOHS will thrive.  We must harness the global power of the Web and make a difference in workers’ lives wherever they may be.

Cultural Night

Performance of Mayan music and folk dance

Last night our Mexican organizers hosted a cultural night.  It began with a presentation by a local historian about the history of the Mayan civilization.  That was followed by a performance of Mayan music and folk dance. A good time was had by all.

Ramping up to ICOH

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Sunday early afternoon before the start of the ICOH Congress, I had a meeting with the Chairman and Founder of the SOS Foundation, Arnaud Vaissie, and a couple of his senior staff.  We discussed the issue of “duty of care” for an employer and the establishment of global guidelines in the area.  We explored areas of collaboration and how we could move the initiative forward.

Panel discussionThere was a panel discussion of experts convened on Monday evening to discuss the issue from various perspectives and consider solutions.  CCOHS was well represented on the panel by our Dr. P.K. Abeytunga.  Other members of the panel included (from left to right in the photo) the heads of ISSA, IOHA, NIOSH, past President of Finnish Institute, CCOHS, ICOH, and SOS Foundation.

Working in Collaboration

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Even prior to the kick-off of the WHO Collaborating Centres meetings, there was a flurry of activity that had a critical impact on CCOHS’ key initiative on vulnerable workers.  Early intervention, open and supportive dialogue with WHO and suppport from our friends at NIOSH like Marilynn Fingerhut and John Howard were key in securing a resolution that saw our “Vulnerable Workers” program back on the agenda and which will, I am conviced, now flourish and make a significant impact nationally and globally on the health of young, immigrant and aging workers as well as women and those working in the informal economy.

The WHO has been going through challenging times due to the economic realities faced by member countries.  Consequently, the WHO has been re-organizing and has had to focus on its key global priorities, in order to ensure that programs are completed to their established timelines. We’re pleased that our multilingual “Vulnerable Workers” Web portal project and NIOSH’s program on green industries and Nanotechnology were moved forward on the agenda, as Knowledge Network initiatives in conjunction with the WHO global priorities.

Now with the start of the Collaborating Centres Network meetings, there has been vigourous discussion and healthy consensus building leading to mutual understanding and resulting in effective promotion of healthy workplaces for all.