The EUROSHNET conference is the venue at which experts, decision-makers in the fields of standardization, testing and certification, and people from the most diverse institutions, companies and countries in Europe can network. Around 120 OSH experts from 16 countries took advantage of the opportunity for intensive dialogue at the 6th EUROSHNET conference, which was held in Dresden from 12 to 14 June.
Eighteen years have now passed since the EUROSHNET network was founded at the first European conference on standardization, testing and certification in the field of occupational safety and health. Since then, the world of work has moved on. Initially, the network was primarily concerned with the effects of the New Approach upon the creation of a single market in Europe. The focus of the challenges has now shifted towards growing digitalization and its diverse impacts upon the world of work. One thing has not changed, however: the need for the occupational safety and health community to network, in order to lobby collectively for European standpoints and to enhance occupational safety and health, including on the global stage. As pointed out by Manfred Wirsch, alternating Chair of the DGUV Governing Committee, in his opening speech, „Digitalization knows no borders. Cooperation within Europe is therefore of immense value, since occupational safety and health is one of the cornerstones of a social and peaceful Europe.“
There is no disputing that within the sphere of standardization, modern technology obviates the need for cost-intensive travel, and in some cases can speed up processes. Standards bodies are increasingly making use of virtual committees, and are producing standards in machine-readable, XML-based formats. Digitalization of standardization has already begun. „Standardization must re-invent itself and break new ground in order to be fit for the future,“ was the clear message from Johannes Stein of DKE/VDE.
When policy decisions need to be prepared or allies won over for a position, however, there is still no substitute for face-to-face dialogue. In this spirit, José Saenz of the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation used the conference to call upon the stakeholders to reach a consensus on validating the safety of collaborative robots. The aim here is for manufacturers and operators to be able to check and confirm, independently and with reference to a defined protocol, that all safety requirements for a given application are met, and for test bodies to recognize the results of the tests performed by the manufacturer.
Virtually all of the countries represented at the conference are facing the same challenges for the future. In order for solutions to be found that are truly effective and sustainable, the community as a whole must address these topics. The EUROSHNET conference is the only event focused upon standardization, testing and certification that provides a regular opportunity for Europe-wide dialogue. „I‘ve gained new perspectives on various global trends in certification and occupational safety and health, and have had plenty of opportunity to network,“ was the conclusion of one delegate.
So how was it? Three days in Dresden packed with contributions by speakers and delegates, an exhibition with opportunities for hands-on experience and discussion, and plenty of conversation. And recognition that international cooperation in standardization, testing and certification must be stepped up. Without networks, it will be even more difficult in the future for the OSH lobby to be taken seriously as a player in the game. The 6th EUROSHNET conference is over, and we are looking forward to the 7th. What really counts is the time between conferences. Continual dialogue is paramount.