Safety at work has developed from a marginal, grey area to a modern discipline in the business process chain
The occupational safety sector is on the way up worldwide and the awareness for safety and health risks at the workplace has risen noticeably. This is also reflected by the results and business at A+A 2007 in Düsseldorf which drew to a close with record results on Friday (21 September) after four days. 55,100 trade visitors (compared to 54,350 in 2005) attended the event, which is regarded as the leading international trade fair for safety, security and health at work (formerly Occupational Safety and Occupational Medicine) with its 1,460 exhibitors from 51 nations. Held concurrently, the international A+A Congress registered approximately 6,000 participants, making it the foremost event for the occupational safety and health community.
This means A+A has impressively underlined its outstanding position as a marketplace and communication platform for all prevention-related topics. Delighted at the increased recognition for preventive measures and the positive development of A+A, Eugen Müller, the Chairman of Basi e.V., the Federal Working Group on Safety and Health at Work, which organised the congress , said: “Occupational safety has turned from a marginal issue into a modern discipline in the business process chain. A+A has accompanied it on this path and provided important momentum.”
The fact that A+A also serves as an indicator for safety and security trends on the pan-European market is also evidenced by the high turn-out of international visitors. More than one in five visitors travelled to the Rhine from abroad.
“After years of stagnation, the German market for protective products is finally growing again, too. Obviously, safety and security-related subjects are increasingly becoming the focus of attention for top management. At A+A 2007 there were noticeably more decision-makers present than in previous years,” says Gerd Zeisler, President of the A+A 2007 Advisory Board and Director Sales Europe for Dräger Safety AG & Co. KGaA, summarising the good mood prevailing amongst suppliers in the exhibition halls.
Zeisler’s statement can even be expressed in figures: GfK, the “Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung” (Lifestyle Research Group), published an updated market study in time for A+A 2007. According to this study, the market volume for personal protective equipment (PPE) in Germany rose by 11% in the period 2004 to 2006 to a current level of Euro 1.42 billion. Experts put the total volume of the European market at Euro 4 to 5 billion.
Internationally enhanced Congress Programme
The A+A opening ceremony at the Congress Center Düsseldorf had already fuelled expert discussions. In his keynote address, Franz Müntefering, the Federal Minister for Labour and Social Affairs, underlined the importance of safety and health at work for increasing productivity: “Safety and health are indispensable prerequisites for maintaining and promoting employees’ performance. This affects all of us - companies but also social security funds and politicians.” In view of the process of demographic change, Müntefering requested that working conditions be structured in such a way as to allow employees to remain in their jobs until they reach retirement age and avoid early-out schemes.
As far as the A+A Congress programme was concerned, the clearly “upgraded” international lectures series was also very well received by the audience. The 15 simultaneously interpreted workshops held under the Leitmotif “Safety and Health at Work International” were well attended.
Also worthy of mention is the congress organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO – UN organisation), held as an integral part of the A+A Congress. This year’s event was entitled “Decent Work as a Global Goal and National Reality” and attracted delegates from 65 nations.
Trend Barometer A+A
At the A+A trade fair 1,460 exhibitors from 51 nations presented the entire spectrum of products and services for personal protection, collective security and health promotion at the workplace – ranging from items for protecting individual parts of the body and personal protective equipment for task forces/emergency services to fire protection devices and ergonomic office furniture design.
The product highlights presented at A+A 2007 included a novel bio-feedback diagnostic device for diagnosing muscle tensions caused by wrong postures at desk workplaces. Other exemplary innovations were: a modern shield for noise abatement in open-plan offices, unobtrusive designer smokers’ cubicles with efficient smoke extraction, sound-dampening surface profiles for office furniture or innovative high-tech thermal-imaging cameras. The latter allow the emergency services to detect the concealed seat of a fire.
Furthermore, many manufacturers of jobwear and protective clothing provided impressive proof that their items not only provide perfect protection and are increasingly comfortable to wear but also feature modern styling. A+A visitors convinced themselves of this added value in Hall 4. Here, as part of the “Innovationsshow”, 19 leading suppliers presented their current corporate fashion collections in several daily shows also featuring special apparel lines for professional newcomers.
Security at work, preventive fire protection and safe fire-controlling measures have developed into a “hot ticket” for A+A. For example the training sessions held by the WFV, the Federation of Factory Fire Brigades, in Hall 6, met with great interest among the expert audience. Attracting an equally high attendance was the stand of the Federal Association of Fire-Protection Article Manufacturers (Bundesverbandes Brandschutz-Fachbetriebe bvbf e. V.).
The “Vereinigung zur Förderung des Deutschen Brandschutzes (vfdb)” (German Association for the Promotion of Fire Protection) impressed with a virtually “detached” presentation during A+A. Hovering above the Dräger Safety stand was a new, spectacular research project developed by the vfdb Association. To be more precise it was an approx. six metre-long, unmanned blimp equipped with relevant measuring devices, designed for remote-controlled surveying of major disasters. Via radio transmission images and measured data (e. g. on air quality and gas concentration) the information collected can be accessed quickly and automatically from a control stand.