The organizers of the XX World Congress on Safety and Health at Work 2014 event have decided that a world free of workplace deaths is an attainable goal. 

During the XX World Congress on Safety and Health at Work 2014 conference it was decided that a world free of workplace deaths can be reality. The event was organized by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and it attracted around 4,000 safety experts, scientists, and politicians from over 140 nations. One of the problems that was discussed was workplace deaths. ILO claim that every year 2.3 million people around the world die due to workplace accidents and occupational illnesses, and that over 850,000 occupational accidents occur every day. According to ILO these accidents are estimated to rack up to a staggering $2.8 trillion!

According to the director of ILO General Guy Ryder, a safe and healthy work environment is a basic human right, and it is one that is key for a sustainable economic development: “Prevention is possible.”

Dr. Joachim Breuer agrees with this sentiment, “A hundred years ago in Germany, there were 10,000 deaths a year at work. Last year the figure was less than 500 for the first time.”

What does it take to create an accident-free work environment?

Creating an accident-free workplace takes effort, but metal technology company Alcoa is proof that this is an achievable goal. The company embarked on a seven year journey that culminated in 2011 when all 60,000 employees worked for a full year without any fatalities. Not only this, but 99.9% of employees did not experience any injuries or setbacks that needed medical treatment or lost time.

This idea of an injury-free workplace is a concept that Alcoa first established back in the 1970s and their journey to achieving their goal can be based around four main principles:

  1. Identify potential hazards and determine the risk
    Every Alcoa business unit is tasked with identifying and eliminating potential hazards
     
  2. Develop and carry out operational controls with built-in layers of protection
    Ensure that if one thing goes wrong, the entire system does not fail
     
  3. Maintain and monitor safety systems
    This allows safety performance evaluation to be carried out and weaknesses corrected
     
  4. React to correct gaps and increase system stability
    This is carried out through a robust correction-action process

This formula is certainly working for Alcoa – in 1987 they experienced 975 lost workdays due to injury and in 2012 they brought that number down to 87.

No matter which industry you work in you can’t deny the importance of workplace safety. The example set by Alcoa, along with the outcomes from the XX World Congress on Safety and Health at Work 2014, highlight the attainability of an accident-free workplace in the near future. Can you see your workplace becoming accident-free in the future?

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