From 11 to 13 May, the second Vision Zero summit will open its virtual doors for discussions on the greatest challenges in the world of work. Jeremy Waterfield takes a look at what to expect from the programme of events.
The world of workplace safety and health will be looking to build upon the progress made at the first Vision Zero summit, held in Finland three years ago, at this year’s summit in Japan. It promises to be a key milestone in the journey to turn a commitment to Vision Zero into real-world changes.
Driven once again by the Global Coalition for Safety and Health at Work, this second summit will give a global platform to international experts in OSH, allowing them to share the latest prevention knowledge and strategies. They will be joined by senior OSH operators from high-profile corporations, all presenting unique insights into how to apply a Vision Zero mindset.
The middle day of the summit will see IOSH lead a programme of technical sessions, called ‘Future business leaders: achieving healthier performance and productivity’. This will address how Vision Zero prevention culture can be implemented in the business world.
Anyone listening to IOSH head of strategic engagement Alan Stevens will learn how OSH has the power to not only keep workers healthy and safe, but also create wealth, boost economies and help liberate populations.
‘This summit promises to be a turning point in the development of safety and health practice, with a focus placed on people’s wellbeing,’ says Alan.
‘The world is realising that good OSH practice can allow societies to flourish and has seen how it is helping countries through their passage of development, particularly in Asia and Africa,’ he adds.
‘By working through the Global Coalition to unite bodies such as the International Labour Organization [ILO] and World Health Organization with governments, employers and OSH professionals, IOSH is taking on the challenge to reduce the negative impact of workplace accidents and illnesses, lessening the burden they put on individuals and emerging states. In freeing up that burden, OSH is accelerating the progression of emerging economies and ensuring the future sustainability of societies.’
Four per cent of global GDP is wiped out by occupational accidents and diseases (ILO, 2015). With the world’s leaders now seeing the potential for OSH to reduce this waste – meaning that the savings can be reinvested in education, better services and a stronger infrastructure – we are starting to fully recognise what must be seen as a massive asset for any emerging economy.
Alan Stevens, IOSH head of strategic engagement
‘For too long, the burden of inadequate safety and health has placed strains on countries’ social security systems, holding their economies back and blighting the lives of those directly affected by the financial insecurity that can result,’ says Alan.
‘In emerging, more informal economies, the burden of poor OSH is largely borne by the individual because there is no social security system, and this leads to debt and hardship. Young family members, especially girls, are then denied access to education, which holds the economy back further, causing more social deprivation.’
Better workplace safety, health and wellbeing not only protects workers, but can also make economies run more smoothly and lead to better life chances. This will be a major focus of the summit and should provide inspiration for OSH professionals and their strategic partners.
‘Good OSH makes good business sense and the successful businesses of the future will be those that place safety, health and wellbeing at the heart of their operation,’ Alan concludes.
Dr Tommi Alanko, chair of Global Coalition Task Group Vision Zero at the Enterprise Level
Host nation: Technology boosts delegate accessibility and promotes ‘anshin’ in the workplace
That the event will be held online in no way diminishes the pride felt by Dr Toshihiro Fujita (pictured), vice-chair of the organising committee of the second Vision Zero summit, to which Japan plays host. Indeed, he says the online format means this summit will be even more global, making it more accessible to delegates and speakers from more than 40 countries – who otherwise may not have been able to afford the budget or time to fly there.
As director of the Osaka-based Institute of Global Safety Promotion, chairman of the summit’s Session Chair Committee and a task group member of the Global Coalition for Safety and Health at Work, Toshihiro sees the summit as a historic moment in the global development of safety, health and wellbeing.
‘This will be a critical event in securing the marriage of people and robotic technologies in a new workplace environment,’ he says. ‘New trends in OSH and in technology are already coming together to write a new chapter of “collaborative safety”, where humans and machines combine to improve both productivity and workers’ safety and security through the wider perspective placed on wellbeing by Vision Zero.
‘We are indebted to Vision Zero for introducing this concept of wellbeing to the workplace. We don’t have a Japanese translation for “wellbeing”; the nearest is “anshin”, which means “lack of worry” or “peace of mind”.
‘But we’ve learned how key the Vision Zero mindset is to the promotion of collaborative safety. We are at the dawn of a new, collaborative way of working, a new world of work that will be supported by new technology.’
For Dr Tommi Alanko, chair of Global Coalition Task Group Vision Zero at the Enterprise Level and a director of the Finland Institute of Occupational Health, a key driver behind this year’s Japan summit is ‘collaboration’. While the first summit was largely about finding common ground through the Vision Zero mindset, much has happened across the globe since then, particularly with the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact upon our lives and workplaces.
Tommi says this has transformed the way we work together to address risks in the workplace, working within our businesses and organisations, and – especially now – alongside our (often global) supply chains. OSH professionals have also been increasingly collaborating across sectors during the pandemic. He cites the power of online technology in facilitating this collaboration, allowing greater sharing and learning – something that he sees continuing at the summit.
‘This summit will be all about bringing something new to share with partners in the Vision Zero mission, helping each other to find new ways to integrate occupational safety and health into businesses and organisations,’ says Tommi.
‘We’re all working together to reach a point where OSH becomes an integral part of the way companies do business; indeed, a point where safety is embraced as the responsibility of the whole business, not just its health and safety department.
‘In my experience, where OSH is in good shape, the company or organisation is also likely to be in good shape.’
The COVID-19 pandemic has put safety and health in society – and not least workplace safety and health – firmly in the spotlight and encouraged greater engagement with our profession. The world of work is looking to safety and health professionals like never before. Whether it’s concerns about the spread of infectious diseases, issues of home-working, mental health or the challenge to gain and retain talented staff, employers and businesses want answers.
The Japan 2022 Vision Zero summit might be virtual, but it still presents a perfect stage for all those involved in workplace safety, health and wellbeing. They will come together to share, listen, inspire, be inspired and grasp this unique opportunity to make people’s lives better.
Global perspective: Driving a vision into real action
The ILO has estimated that 2.78 million workers around the world die from occupational accidents and diseases every year, while 374 million workers suffer from non-fatal occupational accidents (ILO, 2020). This toll gave fresh resolve to calls to establish a global prevention culture. The game-changing Vision Zero commitment gave birth to the Global Coalition for Safety and Health at Work.
The Global Coalition established the Vision Zero summits, with the first staged in Helsinki, Finland. The success of the summit saw the Coalition establish a family of six task groups aligned to priority areas, one of which is Vision Zero at the Enterprise Level, which includes IOSH and is focused
on implementing Vision Zero thinking and best practice across a range of business enterprises.
ILO. (2015) Global trends on occupational accidents and diseases. (accessed 14 April 2022).
ILO. (2020) Safety + health for all. An ILO flagship programme. Key facts and figures (2016-2020). See (accessed 11 March 2022).