Tuesday, 15 February 2011 19:06

The International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH)

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Historical Perspective and Raison d’être

The International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) is an international non-governmental professional society whose aims are to foster the scientific progress, knowledge and development of occupational health and safety in all its aspects. It was founded in 1906 in Milan as the Permanent Commission on Occupational Health. Today, ICOH is the world’s leading international scientific society in the field of occupational health, with a membership of 2,000 professionals from 91 countries. The ICOH is recognized by the United Nations and has close working relationships with ILO, WHO, UNEP, CEC and ISSA. Its official languages are English and French.

At its founding the Commission had 18 members representing 12 countries. One of its primary tasks was to organize international congresses every three years to exchange ideas and experience among leading scientists in occupational health, a tradition which has continued to this day, with the 25th Congress held in 1996 in Stockholm.

After the London Congress in 1948 the international interest was evident and the Commission was internationalized with changes in its constitution, and the name was changed to Permanent Commission and International Association on Occupation Health, a change finalized in 1957. The internationalization and democratization of the commission grew with time and in 1984 the present name was established.

ICOH provides a forum for scientific and professional communication. To achieve this purpose, the ICOH:

    • sponsors international congresses and meetings on occupational health
    • establishes scientific committees in various fields of occupational health and related subjects
    • disseminates information on occupational health activities
    • issues guidelines and reports on occupational health and related subjects
    • collaborates with appropriate international and national bodies on matters concerning occupational and environmental health
    • takes any other appropriate action related to the field of occupational health
    • solicits and administers such funds as may be required in furtherance of its objectives.

                 

                Structure and Membership

                The ICOH is governed by its officers and board on behalf of its membership. The officers of the ICOH are the President, two Vice-Presidents and the Secretary-General, while the board comprises the past president and 16 members elected from among the general membership. Further, if necessary the President may co-opt two members to the board to represent underrepresented geographical areas or disciplines.

                ICOH has both individual and collective members. An organization, society, industry or enterprise may become a sustaining member of the ICOH. A professional organization or a scientific society may become an affiliate member.

                Sustaining members may nominate a representative who fulfils the criteria for full membership and enjoys all the benefits of an individual member. An affiliate member may nominate one representative who fulfils the criteria for full membership and enjoys the same rights as a full member. ICOH’s individual members have a wide professional distribution and include medical doctors, occupational hygienists, occupational health nurses, safety engineers, psychologists, chemists, physicists, ergonomics, statisticians, epidemiologists, social scientists and physiotherapists. These professionals work either for universities, institutes of occupational health, governments or industries. At the end of 1993, the largest national groups were those of France, the United States, Finland, Japan, United Kingdom and Sweden, each with more than 100 members. Sustaining and affiliate members can be represented in the General Assembly, and can participate in the activities of scientific committees; they can also submit materials for publication in the newsletter, which also keeps them informed of ongoing and planned activities.

                Activities

                The most visible activities of ICOH are the triennial World Congresses on Occupational Health, which are usually attended by some 3,000 participants. The 1990 Congress was held in Montreal, Canada, and in 1993 in Nice and the 1996 Congress in Stockholm. The Congress in the year 2000 is scheduled to be held in Singapore. The venues of the triennial congresses since 1906 are listed in table 1.

                Table 1. Venues of triennial congresses since 1906

                Venue

                Year

                Venue

                Year

                Milan

                1906

                Madrid

                1963

                Brussels

                1910

                Vienna

                1966

                Vienna (cancelled)

                1924

                Tokyo

                1969

                Amsterdam

                1925

                Buenos Aires

                1972

                Budapest

                1928

                Brighton

                1975

                Geneva

                1931

                Dubrovnik

                1978

                Brussels

                1935

                Cairo

                1981

                Frankfurt

                1938

                Dublin

                1984

                London

                1948

                Sydney

                1987

                Lisbon

                1951

                Montreal

                1990

                Naples

                1954

                Nice

                1993

                Helsinki

                1957

                Stockholm

                1996

                New York

                1960

                Singapore

                2000

                 

                At present the ICOH has 26 scientific committees and four working groups, listed in table 2. Most of the committees have regular symposia, publish monographs and preview the abstracts submitted to the international congresses. ICOH issues a quarterly newsletter, which is circulated to all members free of charge. The bilingual newsletter contains congress reports, reviews of publications, a list of coming events and information on research and education, and other announcements relevant to members. Several of the scientific committees also publish monographs and proceedings from their meetings. ICOH keeps a computerized membership file, which is printed at regular intervals and circulated to the membership. The ICOH sponsors its scientific journal, the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (IJOEH). The journal is available for members at a very affordable subscription rate.

                 


                Table 2. List of ICOH scientific committees and working groups, 1996

                 

                Scientific committees

                1.                   Accident prevention

                2.                   Ageing and work

                3.                   Agriculture

                4.                   Cardiology

                5.                   Chemical industry (Medichem)

                6.                   Computing in occupational and environmental health

                7.                   Construction industry

                8.                   Developing countries

                9.                   Education and training

                10.                   Epidemiology in occupational health

                11.                   Fibres

                12.                   Health-care workers

                13.                   Health services research and evaluation

                14.                   Industrial hygiene

                15.                   Musculoskeletal disorders

                16.                   Neurotoxicology and psychophysiology

                17.                   Occupational health nursing

                18.                   Occupational toxicology

                19.                   Organic dusts

                20.                   Pesticides

                21.                   Radiation and work

                22.                   Occupational health services in small industries

                23.                   Shiftwork

                24.                   Toxicology of metals

                25.                   Work-related respiratory disorders

                26.                   Vibration and noise

                Scientific working groups

                1.                   Occupational and environmental dermatoses

                2.                   Handicap and work

                3.                   Reproductive hazards in the workplace

                4.                   Thermal factors

                 


                 

                 

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