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14/03/2019

Good Practice Exchange event 2019: Campaign partners share their thoughts on the Healthy Workplaces campaign

Official campaign partners, media partners and representatives from the European Commission and EU-OSHA gathered in Brussels on 5 and 6 March 2019 to exchange good practice information on managing dangerous substances and to celebrate 10 years of the campaign partnership scheme.  

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EU-OSHA

Sharing knowledge and ideas on improving occupational safety and health (OSH) within businesses and organisations was the focus of the 2-day event. With attendees eager to learn from one another, a number of workshops offered practical tips into topics such as OSH and the environment, communication in OSH, protecting workers from carcinogenic substances, and how to rethink risk assessments. We spoke to some of our longstanding campaign partners about their thoughts on the event, their role in the campaign, and the future of their partnership.

Building bridges through Healthy Workplaces

Many official campaign partners agreed that one of the primary benefits of supporting the campaign was the community that EU-OSHA offers. “They provide the space for us to meet very interesting people,” said Tom Schalenbourg, Sustainable Development Director at Toyota Material Handling Europe. “I can meet people from other businesses quite easily through other industry networks. But here, it’s other businesses plus the whole EU-level ecosystem of EU institutions, industry associations and labour organisations. Some of these people can bring very new perspectives that you otherwise wouldn’t have.”

Henk Vanhoutte, Secretary General of the European Safety Federation (ESF), commented on the collaboration made possible through his organisation’s support of the Healthy Workplaces campaign. “Recently we’ve worked with the European Solvents Industry Group (ESIG), another partner, which was the result of networking. Being able to meet people – that’s a very important part,” he said. This collaboration helped make the ESIG’s Solvents@Work campaign more robust, combining the technical knowledge of the ESIG with the practical insight of protective glove manufacturers within the ESF. This partnership ultimately produced some comprehensive best practice guidelines for workers who are exposed to solvents in their day-to-day roles.

Sharing good practices and information

Other campaign partners mentioned the support offered by EU-OSHA in making workplaces across Europe safer for workers at all levels. “This campaign actually created the platform for all companies – not only mine – to share their good practices, learn from each other and continually improve,” said David Tjong, the recently retired Global Director of Health, Safety and Environment at Ideal Standard International. Tjong, who received the Honorary Official Campaign Partner Award during the event, shared some of his own good practices for maintaining a healthy workplace. “Don’t get complacent. If you’re doing something good today, it does not mean you’re also doing something good tomorrow. With safety, we have to be consistent and continuous in our efforts.”

Representing the Federation of European Ergonomics Societies (FEES), Gyula Szabó also offered tips on finding new ways to source good practices. “I think OSH could learn more from other safety science businesses. That’s why it’s very useful to have these partnering events, to bring in new knowledge. There are topics where we should be the leaders, where the protected value is human health and safety in the workplace. But as OSH practitioners and researchers, we can gain lots of knowledge from other fields.”

Many official campaign partners commended EU-OSHA’s role in facilitating the exchange of good practices and information among the campaign partner network and the OSH community. “The biggest achievement across all these years has been working with the excellent and professional team at EU-OSHA. Every campaign there’s a topic that makes sense for my company, so we just deep-dive into that topic,” said Fernando Lopes, EH&S and Sustainability Global Manager at Delphi Technologies. “If you have a winning formula, don’t change it. EU-OSHA has a winning formula.”

Projecting a perfect vision of occupational safety and health

We also asked official campaign partners what OSH would look like in a perfect world. “It would require much greater collaboration, for the benefit of all workers in Europe at shop floor level. In other words, it would involve the sharing of good practices everywhere.” said Marian Schaapman, Head of Unit, Health & Safety and Working Conditions at the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), the independent research and training centre of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). “To get to that effect, goodwill is needed. But if goodwill fails, then good enforcement is really necessary.”

Gyula Szabó believes that in a perfect world, OSH professionals would always strive to offer more than what’s legally required of them. “In ergonomics, for example, we always have to go further than the minimum requirements,” he said. “There are requirements laid down in different directives, but we have to consider what can we do to go beyond them.”

For Tom Schalenbourg, the idea – in theory – is simple. “A perfect company is where every employee, from top management down to the floor, feels responsible for their own safety and health, and for that of their co-workers”, he said. “That’s the first consideration – is this a safe job, or do we need to do something to reduce the risk?”

The Good Practice exchange event was also attended and promoted by several campaign media partners, namely BOZPprofi.cz, Gesunde Arbeit, Reputation Today, ppe.org and Quotidiano Sicurezza. These outlets were recognised for their work during the first year of the current campaign in communicating its key messages, events, tools and resources.

All our official campaign partners and media partners have played a critical role in the success of the Healthy Workplaces campaign and we’d like to thank them for their hard work and dedication in spreading the message of the campaign with their members, employees and networks. For more information on our campaign partners and to learn about the EU-OSHA Good Practice Exchange initiative, visit the campaign website. Don’t forget to stay informed with Healthy Workplaces Campaign news by following us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (#EUhealthyworkplaces).