28 April is World Day for Safety and Health at Work. Celebrated under the auspices of the International Labour Organization (ILO), whose recent statistics suggest that 2.78 million people die from accidents and illnesses related to the workplace every year, its objective is to promote the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally.
This year’s theme, “Generation Safe & Healthy”, focuses on the need to end child labour and to improve the safety and health of young workers. According to the ILO, globally, 541 million young workers (between the ages of 15 and 24) account for 15 % of the world’s labour force. They sustain up to 40 % more non-fatal occupational injuries than do adult workers (older than 24). This is due to many factors including being less able than older and more experienced workers to assess risks, but also feeling less confident to speak up in the face of danger at work.
Moving towards safer workplaces will also help progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No 8: “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”.
Earlier this year, ISO launched ISO 45001, Occupational health and safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use, a standard designed to help organizations implement a management system to improve the health and safety of all workers, regardless of age or gender.
The standard provides a framework for organizations to plan what they need to put in place to minimize the risk of harm, both in terms of long-term health issues and absence from work, as well as risks that give rise to accidents in the workplace. It also requires organizations to have processes in place for the consultation and participation of workers at all levels and functions, meaning that even the most vulnerable of workers should have a voice.
In addition, the standard requires users to look at the wider context of the organization and not only focus on internal employees. “Organizations have to think about their contractors and suppliers as well as, for example, how their work might affect their neighbours in the surrounding area,” explained David Smith, Chair of ISO/TC 283, the technical committee that developed the standard. “This is much wider than simply focusing on the conditions for internal employees and means organizations cannot just contract out risk.”
To mark World Day for Safety and Health at Work, ISO Secretary-General Sergio Mujica urged organizations around the globe to think seriously about health and safety in the workplace.
Users of the standard are also encouraged to refer to ISO 26000, Guidance on social responsibility, which states that organizations should not engage in, or benefit from, any form of child labour.