News header Mobile news header
24 February 2022

Experts at SICUR affirm that coordination between public health and occupational health is vital to control pandemics

Reading time
5 min.
News sections

The new occupational health strategy will take into close account the experience from the fight against covid-19 over the last two years

Representatives from the Ministry of Health, INSST, ANEPA ASPREN, AESPLA and AMAT participated in the International Security Trade Fair organised by IFEMA MADRID and held on February 22-25

Participants in the SICUR FORUM workshops affirmed that coordination between public and occupational health is vital to control pandemics. They revealed that the new occupational health strategy currently being prepared will take into close account some of the aspects and points of improvement that arose in the fight against covid-19 over the last two years. The International Security Trade Fair, organised by IFEMA MADRID, took place on February 22-25 at the Fairgrounds.

The coordination of public health and occupational health to control pandemics was analysed by different experts at a session organised by the Asociación Nacional de Entidades Preventivas Acreditadas (ANEPA), the Asociación Nacional de Servicios de Prevención Ajenos (ASPREN), and the Asociación Española de Servicios de Prevención Laboral (AESPLA). José Comino Pérez, Vice President of ANEPA, acted as the moderator and highlighted the importance of public-private coordination, learning from mistakes, and identifying weak points and potential for improvement in order to face future pandemics.

Marta Zimmermann, Director of the Research and Information Department National Institute of the Occupational Health and Safety (INSST) recalled that "two years ago, companies, citizens, workers, and public administrators suddenly found ourselves facing a scenario we couldn't imagine in our worst nightmares", and added that "there was no time to anticipate purchasing material and drawing up protocols". Consequently, in the second quarter of 2020, the scenario was one of 9% inactivity from technical unemployment, 10% from regulated layoffs, 4.3% from temporary disability (sick leave), and 16% working remotely.

In this situation, she explained that the INSST began to act jointly with the Ministry of Health and supported "the preparation of different draft procedures for action for the occupation risk prevention services regarding covid". Furthermore, at the Institute, "we cooperate together on several lines of work, such as preparing a bibliographic repertoire with updated information, and we publish a set of guidelines of good practices and transverse documents on different aspects and on protection equipment to combat and protect against the virus". Zimmermann also affirmed that "the new occupation health strategy we're now preparing will take close account of aspects and points for improvement regarding the pandemic".

Lessons learned

Montserrat García Gómez, Head of Occupational Health at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, explained that the first thing they suggested when the pandemic started was to undertake their action in collaboration with all the agents that had to intervene to combat the problem. "We began coordinating with the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, the regional governments, all the labour and health authorities, the representatives of the workers and the businesses, and the prevention services. And their actions focused on the relationships between public health and occupational health". One of the lessons learned was that "in the risks of virus transmission, one needs to take into account not only the working conditions but also the conditions of the workers' life".

In terms of the main challenges in the future, she noted the following: "integrating every sector into the response, as we are all makers of public health; convert the health systems into the health system; analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the prevention system; improve working conditions in order to reach a healthy old age; reinforce the coordination mechanisms achieved during the SARS Covid-2 pandemic; achieve a strategic reserve and autonomous production of protection equipment; and understand 21st century society".

José Ignacio Revuelta, from Novotec and representative of Outside Prevention Services ANEPA-ASPA, also noted the importance of public-private coordination during the pandemic, in the framework of the procedures drawn up by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with other institutions. "Our duty was to directly apply every measure in the reality of our companies, assessing risks and designing preventive strategies. And when covid came in, we in prevention services collaborated with the public health system and with the human resources departments in companies".

José Manuel Gópmez, member of the Health Commission of ASPREN and Head of the Health Promotion Area at Quirón Prevención, affirmed that over the last two years, "many health authorities in the regional governments have discovered the capacity and potential of prevention services; they have seen that they have a great network of health centres and highly qualified professionals and a great deal of information on companies, workers, and working conditions, and they were able to give primary health care services and the INSST very important information for assessing people most sensitive to the virus".

Prevention Services

Juan José Muñoz, Health Manager at Caixabank and representative of AESPLA, affirmed that the coronavirus crisis "has made us learn that teamwork is fundamental and that it is important to have accurate information". In addition, he acknowledged that during the "new normality" period in 2020, "we let down our guard too soon". Later, in 2021, collaboration with company organisations was emphasised; and currently, there is greater recognition for "delegating competencies toward prevention and mitigation services".

Finally, Mauricio Ocaña, from the Legal Department at the Asociación de Mutuas de Accidente de Trabajo (AMAT), highlighted the role of the mutual insurance companies collaborating with the Social Security to protect the health of the workers against covid-19. "The mutuals considered that the most suitable way was to establish a single chain of command and response". An industry-wide plan was prepared and all their means were put at the disposition of the regional health departments, including 20 hospitals, 39 operating rooms, 717 beds, and 2555 professionals.