The workplace finally has a future, as companies are investing in health and safety.
The transformation of the workplace is gaining further momentum. Increasing workplace digitisation and certain demographic trends have created new challenges, but also new opportunities. Companies are facing these processes actively by investing more money in sustaining their employees’ working capacities and also in humane working conditions and routines. These are the core messages that can be derived from the development of the trade fair and from the high level of interest among exhibitors and visitors at A+A 2015.
The 30th A+A in Düsseldorf, which ran for four days (27-30 October), comprised 1,887 exhibitors from 57 countries and provided information for more than 65,000 visitors (2013: 63,000) seeking to learn about the latest trends in occupational health and safety, health promotion at work and safety and security management. This is a new record in the history of this event. 30% of all visitors were internationals, clearly indicating an increase since the last event. They came from 80 countries.
“As before, A+A has reached record numbers of exhibitors and visitors, thus reconfirming its position as a global leader among trade fairs and conventions on occupational health and safety. It is providing major stimuli on the market and in the political debate, both in Europe and beyond. It was also helpful to have so many activities in connection with this year’s partner country, South Korea,” says Joachim Schäfer, Managing Director at Messe Düsseldorf, as he sums up numerous talks with exhibitors and international delegations as well as the consistently positive responses and the good atmosphere in the exhibition halls.
The international A+A Congress, a convention organised by the German Federal Association for Occupational Safety and Health (Basi), attracted over 5,000 delegates to its 60 series of event and 350 speakers. The convention, which covered a wide range of subjects, ran in parallel with the conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Social Security Organisation (ISSA) with its line-up of high-calibre speakers.
On the opening day considerable attention was attracted by Andrea Nahles, the German Minister for Employment and Social Affairs. In her speech at A+A 2015 she focused, in particular, on the importance of preventive healthcare in the changing world of labour and said that a flexible compromise was needed: “When we talk about the future of the workplace, we must always include occupational health and safety. The digitisation of the workplace offers a large number of opportunities. Companies can boost their productivity, and employees can achieve better working condition and more flexible working hours. However, there are also risks. Performance optimisation, pressure of time, sensory overload and continuous availability can cause mental stress.” Andrea Nahles emphasised furthermore that the economic potential of health prevention is equally relevant under the aspect of demographic change and must be exploited by companies as a way to create loyalty among their skilled professional workforce. After all, she said, decent work is not a “national luxury”, but something that must be promoted on a global scale.
A+A Trend Barometer – good momentum for exhibitors
A+A exhibitors took the opportunity to present the entire bandwidth of products and services in personal protection and in the realisation of safe and healthy working routines. A guided tour of the trade fair was held where the participants could see for themselves how innovative manufacturers can be.
Klaus Bornack, President of the Trade Fair Committee and Managing Director of Bornack GmbH & Co. KG, believes that the industry is in a good position. He is looking forward to the new business arising from A+A: “A+A has given us some good momentum. The exhibition halls were consistently well frequented on each of the trade fair days and attracted a highly skilled audience. Moreover, the support programme delivered further important stimuli with new highlights, such as the special show on ‘Safe Rescue Operations from Heights and Depths’.”
Visitors were keen to invest and were very much interested in high-quality personal protection equipment and clothing. This was confirmed by a study on the German PPE market, submitted at A+A 2015 by the market research company macrom. According to the study, the market volume has again increased by over 4% in sectors where PPE is particularly vital, such as construction and manufacturing, reaching a total of EUR 1.8 billion over the last two years – and indeed despite stagnating payroll figures. This is about one tenth of the world’s entire market volume.
Safety is a major priority and also leads to greater success
Companies do more than meet their legal requirements. Instead, the health and safety of the workforce are regarded as success factors. Franz-Josef Nülle, Sales Manager for Western Europe at Honeywell Safety Products, feels that the trade fair went well and sums it up as follows: “A+A with its highly skilled international audience is an ideal platform to launch our new products. The chats we had with our customers gave us lots of insights about their needs. The world is changing so rapidly that it is no longer enough just to give employees the right personal protection equipment. Safety specialists also need to be able to monitor their operations in real time, so that they are aware of an incident the moment it arises. This is so that they can act straightaway, before it turns into a disaster.”
Product highlights at A+A 2015 included, for instance, gas warning systems that combine gas detectors, tracking functions and software applications. The gas status can now be visualised anywhere and at any time within a company’s premises.
When it comes to PPE items for specific parts of the body, protective clothing and workwear (with its current emphasis on corporate fashion), there is a clear trend to add an emotive appeal to the relevant messages. Modern workwear needs to look cool and is becoming more and more similar to fashionable outdoor clothing, both in shape and colour. Numerous quality suppliers were on site, and A+A visitors had a good opportunity to find out first-hand at the various stands.
Yet despite all fashionable aspects, functional requirements continue to be extremely important. Thanks to modern high-tech textiles and materials, for instance, emergency response staff can wear special protective clothing that is extremely heat-resistant and at the same time also breathable and water-repellent. And so suppliers can indeed “square the circle” as they meet the discerning demands of PPE decision-makers in procurement, making purchases for firefighters.
Nicole Schmitz is Marketing Communications Manager at MSA, a full-service provider for personal protection equipment and safety solutions, and feels that the quality of the products ideally complemented the professional quality of the visitors in their demand for top-of-the-range solutions: “We’re very pleased with the outcome of the trade fair for ourselves. We had lots of promising conversations. In all, we had the impression that the proportion of international visitors was higher than in previous years.”
The team of the UVEX Safety Group, too, can look back to a successful A+A 2015. Their Managing Director emphasises that “as before, A+A has very clearly confirmed its reputation as a leading international trade fair. We are very pleased with the large number of visitors and especially with the professional calibre of the people we spoke to. Messe Düsseldorf offers an ideal platform for new issues such as ergonomics, demographic change and digitisation. There is no similar event in our industry throughout the world.”
Theme parks featured wide variety of subjects and were well frequented
The latest styles and functional aspects in occupational and protective clothing were also highlighted by exhibitors’ daily presentations of collections at the A+A Fashion Show in Hall 11. Two theme parks – the Safety & Security Innovation Park in Hall 7a and Fire Protection & Emergency Management in Hall 6 – were aimed specially at corporate fire services, offering a comprehensive programme with plenty of information and live, hands-on demonstrations on the prevention of accidents and large-scale disasters. The German Association of Plant Fire Services (WFVD) had all the right answers to numerous questions, e.g. how to deal with the release of hazardous substances, what to do if there is a fire at a production facility or an office and how to use chemical protection suits.
Visitors responded very well to the special section in Hall 10, entitled “Corporate Health”, which featured exhibitors’ products and services on corporate health promotion and healthy workplace design, a theme park on Workplace Design and the programme of the Corporate Health Action Platform. The main focus was on key factors of health and safety at work and ergonomic workplace design. They included, for instance, questions of mental stress, the organisation of a coherent health management system at a company and aspects of ergonomic workplace design for people with disabilities.