“We need workplace safety representatives, joint safety committees with employers, and a five-fold increase in access to occupational health services so that everyone at work is protected.”
By the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
As the number of workplace cases of COVID-19 shows, failures in health and safety at work can have catastrophic effects, not only on workers themselves and their families, but also on individual businesses and even whole economies.
It is in the interests of workers, employers and governments to make occupational health and safety an ILO fundamental principle and right at work.
That is why trade unions – globally, sectorally, nationally and in factories, care homes and offices everywhere – are marking International Workers’ Memorial Day, Thursday 28 April, by demanding that the tripartite International Labour Conference this June take this long overdue and vital step.
Nine million workers have died because of occupational illnesses and injuries – two thirds of them from diseases – since the ILO first decided to take this step at the 2019 Centenary Conference, and now we need to make it a reality.
Governments need to ratify and, more importantly, implement ILO Convention 155 on occupational health and safety and ILO Convention 161 on occupational health services (currently covering only 20% of the workforce) because they outline the practical steps needed to address the challenges that workers and employers face every day.
They set out the common-sense rules that would save lives and money. Disasters like the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh on 24 April 2013, which killed over a thousand workers and injured many more, are bad for business and cause reputational harm and lasting damage across economies. Making occupational health and safety a fundamental ILO right would help prevent such disasters and benefit everyone.
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: “There is no excuse for ducking this decision any longer. It’s bad for workers and bad for business, and it costs economies billions in sickness absence, disability benefits and lost production.
“We need workplace safety representatives, joint safety committees with employers, and a five-fold increase in access to occupational health services so that everyone at work is protected.
“The right to refuse dangerous work is good for business as well as for workers. Responsible businesses must step up and save lives, as well as money, by making occupational health and safety a fundamental right for workers.
“Let’s make this year’s International Workers’ Memorial Day the last year that workers are denied this fundamental right.”
- This article is reproduced from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), published on 28th April, 2022.
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