Safety culture

100 years of OSH: ILO spotlights past, present and future ahead of annual World Day for Safety and Health at Work

Photo: International Labor Organization

Geneva — Technology, the environment, changes in how work is done and shifting demographics present both challenges and opportunities for the future safety and health of the global workforce, according to new report from the International Labor Organization.

The report, Safety and Health at the Heart of the Future of Work: Building on 100 Years of Experience, was released April 18 ahead of World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2019, scheduled for April 28. It reviews the organization’s century of work on occupational safety and health issues and highlights emerging concerns in the workplace.

Currently, nearly 2.8 million workers worldwide die every year as a result of work-related injuries and, more often, illnesses (86%), the report states. An additional 374 million suffer nonfatal on-the-job injuries and illnesses annually.

Other highlights:

  • Annual total lost days of work resulting from work-related injuries and illnesses equals almost 4% of the world’s gross domestic product.
  • Circulatory diseases (31%), cancers (26%) and respiratory diseases (17%) contribute to nearly three-quarters of the total number of work-related deaths.
  • Among adults, about 25% of hearing loss and 20% of lower back and neck pain are attributable to work-related exposures.

The report includes recommendations to policymakers and other stakeholders to help address the emerging challenges. Among the recommendations:

  • Adopt a more multidisciplinary approach and build stronger links to public health work.
  • Enhance worker understanding of OSH issues.
  • Strengthen international labor standards and national legislation, which will require stronger collaboration between governments, workers and employers.

“As well as more effective prevention for established risks, we are seeing profound changes in our places and ways of working,” Manal Azzi, technical specialist on OSH at ILO, said in a press release. “We need safety and health structures that reflect this, alongside a general culture of prevention that creates shared responsibility.”

ILO has celebrated World Day for Safety and Health at Work (which coincides with Workers Memorial Day) every year since 2003. The campaign is intended to promote prevention of workplace incidents, injuries and fatalities.

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