Joachim Schäfer, Managing director at messe Düsseldorf GmbH / (c) Messe Düsseldorf GmbH / ctillmann
Our working environment has changed in many different ways. The needs of the workforce have increased in complexity, requiring great flexibility and mobility. In particular, the focus is currently on the digitisation of the working environment and the impact of those processes on working conditions. A representative study was recently conducted by the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB). Called “DGB Index Gute Arbeit” (DGB Good Work Index), it showed that 82 per cent of employees felt that their work was impacted by digitisation processes, and 60 per cent even described this impact as high or very high. The respondents predominantly reported a greater strain, growing workloads and an increasing need for multitasking. A majority also said they were experiencing more monitoring and checking. But while nearly all workplaces are now digitised and customised, demographic change has also created new challenges and opportunities. Measures to maintain a person’s working capacity are therefore just as important as industrial safety and corporate security. They improve people’s lives by protecting them from health and safety hazards. At the same time, they increase a company’s productivity and thus also its competitiveness.
From 17 to 20 October everything in Düsseldorf will revolve around a safe, secure and healthy workplace. Trade visitors from all over the world will be meeting at the Düsseldorf Exhibition Centre for A+A, comprising both an international trade fair and a convention. A+A 2017 can already warrant at this stage that it will offer the full range of the latest global trends and products in industrial safety, health promotion in the workplace and safety management at work. Around 1,900 exhibitors will be at this leading trade fair, and registrations have been received from all continents. A+A is the most important event for all professionals in industrial safety and security management, HR managers, works councils, buyers in industry, specialist retailers, company doctors, firefighters, the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW), the police, staff at employers’ liability insurance associations, accident insurance companies and owners of small businesses. It is held at two-year intervals.
As well as being the world’s biggest leading trade fair in its segment, A+A has always – ever since it started in 1954 – helped to raise worldwide awareness of industrial safety and health promotion in the workplace. New developments have always featured in the range of topics at the trade fair and convention as soon as they arise. A lot has happened since the very first A+A, then called Trade Fair for Industrial Safety and Occupational Healthcare: 25 years ago the European Union introduced its first framework directive on industrial safety. Since then the EU has continually played a pioneering role with its high standards in protecting employees from health and safety hazards. Since 2008 the number of fatal occupational accidents has dropped by nearly one quarter. At the same time, there has been a 10-per-cent reduction in the number of employees in the EU with at least one work-related health problem or with a problem that has been aggravated by their work situation. Nevertheless, there are still major challenges. It has been estimated that around 160,000 people die of work-related diseases in Europe every year. It is one of the highest priorities to maintain and update high standards in Europe. The European Commission has recently committed itself to implementing further key measures. Their purpose is to adapt EU law and employment protection legislation to suit changing employment patterns and developments within society.
Most companies – and indeed throughout Europe – have long been taking positive action on the understanding that preventative healthcare and health-promoting working conditions do not just cost money, but also save considerable amounts of cash which might be spent on accidents and illness-related absences. Also, in the long term, it means securing economic benefits:
Staff feel happy at work if their environment is healthy, safe and pleasant. It increases their creativity, productivity and therefore also the quality of their output.
Checking workplaces for potential hazards and revealing and removing deficits means improving people’s working routines. This makes a company both safer and more efficient.
A+A 2017 will feature the entire bandwidth of products and services in personal protection and in the realisation of safe and healthy working routines. Manufacturers will give convincing demonstrations of their innovative strength, including, among other things, corporate fashion, ergonomic office furniture, protective equipment, fire protection and emergency management and corporate environmental protection.
Running in parallel with the A+A trade fair, the 35thInternational Congress on Industrial Safety and Healthcare will provide comprehensive information on today's topics and challenges in the industry. As before, it will be organised by the German Federal Association for Occupational Safety and Health (Basi), whose thematic planning is moving ahead at full speed, after receiving numerous ideas and suggestions from the industry. All this input is now being evaluated, fleshed out and translated into a presentation programme. Again, the convention will feature over 50 series of talks, and more than 300 speakers will address current issues and outline potential solutions. As in previous years, the A+A Congress will include the conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as a major programme item. It will consist of three sessions in which the following topics will be discussed by experts on employment, health and safety:
Occupational health and safety in the global supply chain
How can companies and employers collect and analyse occupational health and safety data in order to improve safety and personal protection at work?
Violence and psycho-social risks in the workplace
In addition to the trade fair and convention, other well established A+A programme items will be a range of forums, theme parks and special shows. They will illustrate specific solutions for specific areas and industries, providing visitors with hands-on experience of the relevant products.
The Health & Safety Meeting Point in Hall 10 is a special show created by the German Federal Association for Occupational Safety and Health (Basi) and its national and international partners. A wide range of promotional support organisations in health and safety will be represented here, i.e. employers’ liability insurance associations, trade unions, employers’ organisations, ministries, government institutions, professional and trade associations, universities and other institutions. For visitors the Meeting Point is the competence centre on all issues of occupational health and safety. Experts are available here on anything that might interest visitors in matters of regulations, protective equipment, hazardous substances, occupational diseases, workplace health promotion, etc. Such wide-ranging consultation is unique and can only be found with this bandwidth at A+A. In addition, a wide spectrum of information material and media will be available, supplemented by informative and entertaining activities at the exhibitions stands.
The Safety & Security Trend Forum in Hall 11 will feature simple, readily comprehensible talks on six focal areas, giving insights into recent developments. The following key areas are currently planned:
Avoidance of airborne dust
Safe handling and storage of hazardous materials
Fire protection and emergency management
The theme park entitled Fire Protection and Emergency Management in Hall 6 will feature informative presentations and live demonstrations, showing what action can be taken to prevent accidents and large-scale disasters and how to conduct rescue operations. The German Association of Plant Fire Services (WFVD) will provide information on corporate security and fire protection, especially on
rescue operations in a pit,
rescue operations in a container,
rescue operations/evacuations on a platform and
rescue operations on scaffolding
One topic will be the definition of roles in preventative care, intervention and interface discussions within a company.
Working clothes and PPE are important ways to protect wearers from accidents – but only if they are genuinely used. Wearing comfort and attractive design considerably increase acceptance among users. PPE manufacturers are therefore increasingly keen to focus on aspects of fashion. Presentations at the daily A+A Fashion Shows in Hall 11 will be both lively and appealing, showing the diversity and fashionable character of contemporary working clothes and PPE. High-quality design and safety have long ceased to be incompatible, a development which is clearly borne out by smart solutions and new materials.
The stage programme Workplace Design & Corporate Health in Hall 10 will concentrate on the ergonomic design of workplaces and routines in the office as well as on workplace health promotion. The main focus will be on conveying good practice, covering the criteria of people-friendly workplace design, human-to-machine interfaces, preventative healthcare and safety, demographics and cost-effectiveness. Topical issues discussed on this platform will include, for instance, age-appropriate workplace design, lighting, air conditioning and acoustics. On this stage presentations will be welcome not only from non-commercial institutions and organisations, but also from exhibitors. All talks will be given simultaneous interpreting.
How are rescue operations conducted in extreme situations? This will be demonstrated in Hall 6 by our cooperation partners, the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) and the German Life Saving Organisation (DLRG) at a special show entitled SafeRescue Operations from Heights and Depths. Using a diving pool and a roofed-over climbing wall, the demonstrations will feature rescue operations of accident victims in extreme situations, both above and under water. The focus will be on methods and procedures in rescue operations as well as on the occupational safety of helpers and appropriate personal protection equipment (e.g. fall protection).
Partner country: UK
The A+A 2017 support programme also includes activities run by this year’s partner country, the UK, with the aim of encouraging German-British dialogue on industrial safety. The various events will be attended by representatives of important industry associations, institutions and politics. The trade fair, the special shows, the presentations at the convention and the ILO Conference will all involve participation of the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE), an independent expert committee which advises the UK government. The HSE acts in the public interest, aiming to minimise fatal accidents and serious work-related diseases in the UK workplace.
The partner country was chosen by the Advisory Board at A+A 2015 and therefore clearly before the Brexit referendum. Since then circumstances have of course changed, making an international exchange of experience more important than ever before. The current political situation throws up numerous questions for everyone, including suppliers of safety devices and personal protection equipment. Being a major industry platform, A+A 2017 will give space to intensive discussions on institutional and business relations, with opportunities to learn more about the UK market with nearly 32 million in gainful employment.
Traditionally, the number of exhibitors from the UK has always been the biggest at A+A: 85 UK exhibitors came in 2015, presenting their innovative products and services within a space of over 3,700 square metres.
Favourable market conditions for A+A
Anyone travelling to A+A Düsseldorf this October will experience an industry that is clearly growing. The worldwide PPE market currently has a volume of around EUR 18 billion. 38 per cent of this figure (i.e. EUR 5.8 billion) accounts for the markets of the European Union, including EUR 1.8 billion in Germany alone. Experts are expecting the market to grow even further.
These positive prospects will be of great benefit to exhibitors at A+A 2017. Thanks to a high level of endorsement among international experts, the trade fair and convention have become established as leading global platforms for occupational health and safety. A+A 2015 attracted 65,000 trade visitors from over 80 countries, with an international share of around 30 per cent. Nearly two thirds of all visitors were senior or middle management with major decision-making powers in procurement. After the trade fair exhibitors said they were impressed by the high level of technical expertise among visitors and were mostly very happy with the outcome for their businesses. Visitors, in turn, praised the comprehensive international offers in all the different sections, the large number of innovative products and the supplementary information they received at the convention and through the support programme. After the trade fair more than half of all visitors said they had found suppliers and business partners, and 97 per cent said they would recommend a visit to A+A.
These figures show that A+A 2017 should be worth the journey for anyone with a professional interest in occupational health and safety.