Exhibitors who came from Australia and Venezuela, from Mexico and Monaco; nine cavernous exhibition halls; live demonstrations of products — including fires that attendees were invited to extinguish; conversations in many different languages; a corporate fashion show that could rival a Broadway production; and almost – but not quite – an indoor windmill. Clearly, occupational safety and health trade shows are done a little differently in Germany. That’s the story of the 2015 edition of the A+A safety trade fair.

More than 65,000 visitors

The staging of A+A 2015, International Trade Fair with Congress for Safety, Security and Health at Work, reflected companies’ increasing investment in occupational health and safety: a record of more than 65,000 visitors (2013: 63,000) took part to get an extensive overview of the latest trends in occupational health and safety, health promotion at work and safety and security management. More than 30% of all visitors came from outside Germany (from 80 nations), a further growth compared to the last staging in 2013. 

 The transformation of the working environment is gaining further momentum. Increasing workplace digitization and respective demographic trends have created new challenges but also new opportunities. Companies are facing these developments actively by investing more money in sustaining their employees’ working capacities and also in humane working conditions and processes.

 The international A+A congress organized by the German Federal Association for Occupational Safety and Health (Basi) featured a wide range of topics and attracted more than 5,000 delegates. It was accompanied by with the conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Social Security Organization (ISSA) with its high-caliber speakers.

 In her opening statement, Andrea Nahles, German Minister for Employment and Social Affairs, focused in particular on the importance of preventative healthcare in the changing working environment, stating that a flexible compromise is needed: “When we talk about the future of the workplace, we must always include occupational health and safety. The digitization of the workplace offers a large number of opportunities. Companies can boost their productivity and employees can achieve better working condition and more flexible working hours. However, there are also risks. Performance optimization, time pressure, sensory overload and continuous availability can cause mental stress.”

Euro PPE growth

 Visitors were keen to invest and were very much interested in high-quality personal protection equipment and clothing. This was confirmed by a study about the German personal protection equipment sector submitted at A+A 2015 by the market research company Macrom. According to the study, the market volume has again increased by over 4% in sectors where personal protection equipment is particularly vital - such as construction and manufacturing - reaching a total of EUR 1.8 billion over the last two years, despite stagnating payroll figures. This is about one tenth of the world’s entire market volume.

Product highlights

Product highlights at A+A 2015 included gas warning systems which combine gas detectors, tracking functions and software applications. The gas status can be visualized anywhere and at any time within a company’s premises.

 When it comes to personal protection equipment for specific body parts, protective clothing and workwear (with its current emphasis on corporate fashion), there is a clear trend to add an emotional appeal. Modern workwear is becoming similar to fashionable outdoor clothing, both in shape and color.

Emerging market

With one of the fast-growing economies among developed nations – and one largely driven by industry and construction – South Korea faces occupational safety and health challenges similar to those in other countries.

“Korea has designated public safety as a national priority,” said Young Soon Lee, president of the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA). Lee spoke recently at the international A+A 2015 Trade Fair & Congress in Dusseldorf, Germany.

In her address to A+A attendees, Federal Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Andres Nahles pointed out that Korea and Germany have some key OSH challenges in common, such as aging societies and the digitalization of the workplace. She credited KOSHA with helping to greatly reduce the occupational incident rate in Korea.

“Broken safety cultures cause occupational accidents, which means a technical approach alone is not enough for a decent mechanism of safety  and health management,” said Lee.

Chosen as the partner country for A+A 2015, the Republic of South Korea sent a large delegation that included experts who participated in the educational sessions as well as 46 exhibitors – up from 27 in 2013.

“High level decision makers in the  Korean government and Korean entrepreneurs are at A+A 2015 to share our ideas and thoughts at seminars and policy forums on a variety of issues, such  as the OSH market, regulations and safety certification systems, recent risk management methods and psycho-social  risks,” said Lee.

He noted that keeping an eye on the occupational safety and health “big picture” requires both  domestic efforts and international interactions aimed at figuring out solutions.

In this context, KOSHA, in collaboration with the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Social Security Association (ISSA) adopted the Seoul Declaration” in 2008 — the country’s first safety and health charter, concentrating efforts on disseminating a “prevention culture” of safety and health.”

“This May, KOSHA successfully hosted the 31st International Congress on Occupational Health in Seoul, Korea, with 3,535 safety and health professionals from around the world,” said Lee. “Furthermore, we adopted the Seoul Statement on the development of occupational health services for all.”

Lee described A+A 2015 as “a venue to disseminate a great value; protecting the life and health of working people.”

The next A+A will be held from Oct. 17-20, 2017, in Dusseldörf, Germany. The biennial trade fair is staged by Messe Duesseldorf.