31st International Congress on Occupational Health

The 31st International Congress on Occupational Health was held in the COEX Convention Center in Seoul, Korea from 31 May – 5 June 2015. The theme for the congress is “Global Harmony for Occupational Health: Bridge the World”. It is the most important triennial event in the occupational health calendar, where all the leaders, experts, practitioners, and students in the field from all across the globe meet, socialise and share the latest ideas in Occupational Health. It is organised by the International Commission for Occupational Health (ICOH) which is an international non-governmental professional society, founded in 1906 as the Permanent Commission on Occupational Health.

Picture with Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye at the exhibition area. (Lt-Rt: Victor Hoe, Sabrina Wan Mohamad, Doo Yong Park, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, Lee Chee San)

There were four other parallel conferences running during the same period; i.e., the 30th Asia-Pacific Occupational Safety and Health Organization (APOSHO) Annual Conference, the 10th Meeting of the Global Network of WHO Collaborating Centers for Occupational Health, the 25th Korea China Japan (KCJ) Joint Conference on Occupational Health and the 31st International Symposium on Safety and Health in the Construction Industry. Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye representing the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOSH) Malaysia presented a paper on “Mental Health and Benefits of Workplace Health Promotion” at the 30th APOSHO Annual Conference.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the 31st International Congress on Occupational Health, and present our paper on “Barriers in notification on Occupational Disease in Malaysia”. The report is part of the results from the projects conducted for the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) Malaysia by the Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health-University of Malaya together with Dr Azlan Darus, Dr Marzuki Isahak and Ms Adah Ignatius from the centre. The paper presented the results from the focus group discussion with Occupational Health Doctors (OHD) and other doctors, from both the private and public sectors. The recommendation from the discussion includes improving and standardise the undergraduate training on occupational health among all local medical schools, power of entry to the workplace for OHD investigating occupational diseases, enhancing the notification system via an online platform, improving updates or response on action taken by DOSH following notification, improve awareness of the notification form, compulsory placement of OHD in the workplace or have structured Occupational Health Services, and anyone who suspects an occupational disease case can notify to DOSH.

Victor Hoe with the ILO Master Fellowship award and Ismaniza Ismail with the Best Student Poster award

The International Congress on Occupational Health is one event that every practitioner in occupational health should attend to learn the latest development in practice and policy. In this year’s congress, there were a total of 1,631 papers from 93 countries presented, which consists of 10 plenary, 33 semi-plenary, 16 policy forums, 511 special sessions, 502 oral and 559 poster presentations. The topics ranged from Work Organisation and Psychosocial Factors, Health and Safety Culture, and Musculoskeletal Disorders, to Informal Sectors and Rural Health. Besides the paper’s presentation, there were also the General Assembly of the ICOH and business meetings of the 37 ICOH Scientific Committees (SC), the role of the SC range from SC on Aging and Work to SC on Nanomaterial Workers’ Health. Every ICOH member has the opportunity to join the SC to contribute to the field and participate in their activities. Every scientific committee organise separate conferences, symposiums and meetings focusing on specific topics. Being an ICOH member, I joined the ICOH SC on Musculoskeletal Disorders which organise the Prevention of Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (PREMUS) conference, and the ICOH on Occupational Medicine. I would recommend all practitioners in Occupational Health in Malaysia join the ICOH and the ICOH SC as an important avenue to meet other professionals from across the globe.

Malaysia has a good but small representation at the 31st International Congress on Occupational Health and the 30th APOSHO in Seoul. There was a total of 18 papers presented at the two events. Two Malaysian won awards, and I was awarded one of the two International Labour Organization (ILO) Master Fellowship to complete the ILO Master in Occupational Safety and Health at the International Training Centre of the ILO Turin School of Development, Turin, Italy. This is the first time ICOH was offering the ILO Master Fellowship award. Another Malaysian won the best student poster presentation. Ismaniza Ismail from the Universiti Teknologi MARA who is studying at the University of Adelaide in South Australia, the poster on “The Effects of Temperature, Ultraviolet (UV) and Abrasion on the Performance of Gloves Used by Agricultural Workers Handling Organophosphate Pesticides” beats 64 other competitors from 31 countries.

Victor Hoe and Gogillan Sevaratnam from Hospital Kuala Lumpur who is manning the Dublin-Ireland ICOH2018 booth at the exhibition area.

The next International Congress on Occupational will be held in Dublin, Ireland from 29 April – 4 May 2018.

I would like to acknowledge the Society of Occupational and Environmental Medicine-Malaysian Medical Association (SOEM-MMA) for awarding the grant of RM1000, the 31st International Congress on Occupational Health organising committee for waive in the registration fees and partial financial support for flight and accommodation, and the University of Malaya for partial financial assistance. All SOEM-MMA members in good standing can apply for the grant for presenting papers at National or International conference, the detail of the grant is available from the SOEM-MMA secretariat.

Written by Assoc Professor Dr Victor Hoe for Berita MMA

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