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Our visit to the World Congress Health and Safety Conference, Singapore

Just recently, Joyce, Richelle and I flew to Singapore with the main objective of looking at health technology. I’m not sure if it is disappointing or reassuring that there wasn’t anything there that we don’t know about in New Zealand.

As with most Health and Safety conferences there was a lot of information. With so many health-related topics the three of us were able to spread ourselves around to gather as much information as possible. The conference was attended by well over 2000 people and other than the opening and closing sessions there were between 10 and 15 sessions on at any given time. It was tough to pick what tracks to choose!

The opening speaker was an astronaut – I’d never met an astronaut before. And we think we work in dangerous industries. I wouldn’t want a bad day in his office!

One of the most interesting speeches was about IBM’s ‘Watson’ – you may have seen ‘Watson’ on 20/20 a couple of months ago. It’s a huge computer which identifies, diagnosis and produces treatment plans, mainly in cancer and heart disease, with the intention of extending this capability to other diseases. The data can be moved across the world to and from ‘Watson’ in three seconds – this is definitely groundbreaking technology, and who knows where this will be in five years’ time.

Another interesting speaker talked about workplace fatalities from illnesses. You may not be aware that these deaths far exceed the fatalities from workplace accidents but are often ignored. There was a petition started to try and stop Asian countries manufacturing and using asbestos. Reports say the manufacture and use of asbestos in these countries is on a steep incline, probably due to the cost. And it’s sad because we know the terrible effects it has had on people over the last 50 years. There will be casualties because of it.

Respiratory diseases still lead the way in workplace illnesses. There was a lot of discussion about illnesses in the workplace, including heart disease if caused by workplace stress, as well as melanoma if caused by too much exposure during work. It will be hard to be definitive with these claims, although it doesn’t decline our responsibilities to reduce these risks for all employees.

The other really interesting seminar was about mental health in the workplace. One of the speakers was a very passionate professor talking about the Psycho Social Culture in the Workplace – which is a trendy name for having a supportive and caring culture in the workplace. The general consensus is the same as we have in New Zealand. We need to talk about mental health more and reduce the stigma. This will encourage people to seek help and receive the correct treatment and support when they need it.

It was reassuring to hear that other developed countries generally have the same issues that we do, although our fatality rate per capita is really high in comparison, so we have the best opportunity to rapid improvements – no one simple answer but awareness, education and a change in attitude will all help.

All in all it was well worth investing in the conference. Keeping up with current trends and initiatives is vital so we can provide you with the very best in health and safety at your workplace.

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