Volume 2, Issue 2, 1998

Editor's Chronicle

The EU member states take turns in holding the Presidency of the European Union for six months at a time. This enables a state in office to put forward issues to which it wishes to draw particular attention. Sweden will hold the Presidency for the first six months of 2001. Issues involving working life and work environment will be raised during Sweden’s tenure. As one phase in these efforts, the National Institute for Working Life (NIWL), the National Board of Occupational Safety and Health (NBOSH) and the Joint Industrial Safety Council (JISC) will hold a joint conference in January 2001 at which current issues important to the EU will be elucidated and discussed.Two overall themes will characterize the content of the Conference and Workshops:

  • "Job Development and Creation: Labour Market Strategies", and
  • "The Good Working Life: Work Environment and Organization"

The Conference, whose name is "Work Life 2000", is aimed at representatives of EU member state governments, relevant public agencies, labour market parties (employer and trade union organizations), business organizations and other interested parties. The idea is for conference subjects to be prepared in workshops, led by scholars, in the years 1997 - 2000. A total of about 60 preparatory workshops will be held on important subjects within the themes mentioned above. Each workshop will be summarized in a "Workshop Statement", which will serve as input to sessions at the Conference.The ICOH Scientific Committee of Accident Prevention was responsible for a workshop on "Occupational Trauma - Measurement, Intervention and Control", which took place 14-16 December 1998, at the Office of the Swedish Industrial Relation Parties, Brussels, Belgium.

The brief for this three-day workshop, which included some 20 invited participants, combined three themes, one for each day of the workshop and was formulated as follows:

"Occupational trauma tend, in some industrial surroundings, to be extremely exposure-dependent and thus stable in relation to the specific technology. On the other hand, some approaches including media campaigns aimed at changing social attitudes in the area of industrial safety, injury prevention and compensation boast surprising effects.The three sub-themes for this workshop are a) how to define, measure and prioritize the risk and consequence of occupational ill-health, b) how to conduct effective inspection and legal control of occupational risk, and c) how to conduct intervention activities and evaluate the effects of applied prevention. a) In measuring the risk of occupational trauma it is necessary to apply perspectives of public health and environmental epidemiology in order to fairly assess the relativity of the problem. Occupational trauma has to be weighed and ranked against other problems of public health and environmental hazard for correct priorities to be established and cost-efficient prevention to be undertaken.b) The inspection and control of occupational risks is undergoing change in many parts of the world - a large number of government labour inspectorates are suffering from inefficiency, crises of competency, and politically determined scarcity of resources. However, examples of good and efficient control practices are crucial to occupational health and safety.

c) Programs for intervention and prevention of occupational trauma need to be undertaken in a scientific and methodologically correct manner. The number of published papers in this area is steadily growing, but the quality of this research is often low. In order to be able to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, sound analytical and methodological requirements for such activities should be established."

Prof. Tord Kjellström, School of Medicine, University of Auckland (until recently Head of Environmental Epidemiology at WHO in Geneva) covered the first part of the brief by seeking to combine and apply perspectives on occupational health with parallel public and environmental health perspectives.For the second part of the brief, the second day of the workshop, which covered the important and very dynamic area of government compliance control, its strategy, regulatory framework, applied policies, and field services methods, we had invited the assistant deputy Minister for Labour in Ontario, Mr. Paavo Kivisto. We have consciously sought to tap into Canadian experiences in this field, since the European continental traditions and the strong Anglo-Celtic influences find an interesting balance in several Canadian jurisdictions. We also believe it could be very constructive to look outside the European Union for dynamic examples and new approaches to government industrial safety inspection and control.For the last part of the brief we asked Prof. Harry Shannon, at the Institute for Work and Health in Ontario, to report on an international collaboration between researchers associated with SCOAP into how successful interventions in occupational health and safety should be conducted and evaluated. The workshop was an open-ended and informal affair, where problem-formulating and problem-solving was the main priority. The three seemingly disparate themes - and presenters – were put together with the aim of creating dynamic interaction between approaches from academic research and applied government control.

The three keynote presentations by Kjellström, Kivisto and Shannon are published, with the support of the Swedish National Institute for Working Life, in this issue of the Safety Science Monitor. The readers’ comments and thoughts on these important issues are welcome.

Tore J Larsson