Policymakers and industry professionals convened in Portland, Oregon to think “unconventionally” about the current and future challenges of work accident insurance and recovery during the IAIABC 103rd Convention. Presentations and hallway conversations, in particular the two plenary presentations, focused on the human element and social impact of workplace injuries and illnesses.
During his keynote remarks, Mr. Hans-Horst Konklowesky, Director-General of International Social Security Association (ISSA), examined the challenges for workers’ compensation systems as work and the work force experience rapid change. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that almost 4% of global GDP is lost annually as a result of work injuries and illnesses. Social insurance programs, including prevention and workers’ compensation, are essential to protecting lives but also securing global stability.
Mr. Konklowesky stressed the need for an evolving view of prevention and recovery, one that integrates safety, health, and well-being at work. Many adults spend more hours at work than in leisure and their lives are profoundly shaped by policies, practices, and experiences in the workplace. People-centric prevention policies result in a healthier, more productive, workforce.
A bold and dramatic trailer for the Vision Zero campaign reinforced this message. Vision Zero is an international campaign based on the belief that all accidents, diseases and harm at work are preventable. Vision Zero is built on seven golden rules which can be incorporated by businesses, health and safety organizations, and governments in any part of the world. Learn more and become a Vision Zero partner at www.visionzero.global
On the closing day, Curtis Weber shared his heart-breaking but inspiring story about his own work injury. Working in Saskatchewan over a summer building grain bins, in an installation gone wrong, Mr. Weber was shocked by 14,000 volts of electricity 3 separate times. Mr. Weber had years of experience building grain bins, but as a 17-year old, did not feel comfortable sharing his concerns with the install as it was going before he was injured. A once-promising hockey player, one of his first thoughts following amputation of an arm and leg was how he would once again hold a hockey stick.
His resiliency following his tragic injury is an inspiration for others, and a lesson. As Mr. Weber put it, “I could have been a different statistic; not a positive one, but a negative one.” Mr. Weber now spends his time consulting and speaking about prevention and return to work strategies so others do not have to experience what he did.
The unconventional conference theme asked attendees to think differently about workers’ compensation, and these two keynotes presenters did just that. The IAIABC looks forward to continuing to have difficult conversations that force stakeholders to consider new, innovative ways to shape the industry.