Candle-lighting Ceremony to Remember Millions Killed or Injured through Work

ILO join trade unions, labour and health and safety officers and other concerned people in a candle-lighting ceremony on Workers’ Memorial Day.

Press release | BANGKOK | 24 April 2002

BANGKOK (ILO News): A candle-lighting ceremony tomorrow (Thursday) will mourn the 52 lives that will be lost to work during its 15-minute span. It will also commemorate the 5,000 work-related deaths that will occur around the world that day – and every other day of the year. Soon-to-be-released International Labour Office (ILO) estimates put the global death toll from accidents and diseases related to work at more than 2 million each year. Each year, these claim twice as many lives as war, and more than malaria, which itself is often work-related.

Workers’ Memorial Day is a global initiative intended to lower the toll, and call attention to an often-overlooked tragedy. In Bangkok, the ILO will join trade unions, labour and health and safety officers and other concerned people to observe the day at an institute dedicated to workplace safety – the Asian Workers’ Institute for Occupational Health, Safety and Environment. You are cordially invited to attend the ceremony at 14.45pm on Thursday 25 April, OHSE Institute, 15th Floor, Tower III, Sindhorn Building, Wireless Road, Bangkok (02 263 2330).

The ILO works closely with the institute, which is sponsored by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions Asia Pacific Regional Organization (ICFTU-APRO), by the Government of Denmark through the LO-FTF council of Danish trade unions, and by other global union federations in the region. The ceremony and a visit to the institute will also conclude a three day gathering of trade unionists from around the region, focusing on the application of the ILO’s new Guidelines on Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (ILO-OSH 2001), as well as on HIV/AIDS organized by the ICFTU and the Canadian Labor Congress. ILO Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Mr. Yasuyuki Nodera will address the ceremony, calling for united efforts to achieve decent, safe work, and stressing the roles of the ILO’s tripartite partners: government, employers and workers.

Working towards safer work in Thailand

The international theme for this year’s commemoration – the seventh – is improving public health through stronger health and safety, including a focus on HIV/AIDS. The OHSE institute’s efforts to promote safety and health at work include introducing body-mapping to Thailand. Institute director Phil Drew says the technique is simple but effective. "Workers use large paper cutouts of body fronts and backs to mark places where they experience pain, discomfort or other medical problems," he said.

"Common patterns often emerge. For example, body maps of long distance drivers might show lower back pain from long periods of sitting, aches and pains in wrists and knees from gear changing, and stomach problems from irregular meals."

Mr. Drew says mapping is the first step. "The next is to find ways to reduce workplace hazards. Here, trade union and joint union management health and safety committees have a very valuable role to play. Workers are usually the people who are most aware of the problems – and can often produce the best solutions."

The institute plans a series of activities to promote body mapping and other OSH measures, including booths at Sanam Luang on Labour Day (1 May), and at the Queen Sirikit Convention Centre during National Safety Week (8-10 May).

Further information

Further details are available from Penny Ferguson, ILO public information, Bangkok, on + 02 288 2482 or + 01 820 8038 or e-mail, Workers’ Memorial Day will be celebrated internationally on 28 April. At ILO Headquarters in Geneva, events on 29 April will include a special tribute to workers in emergency public services, such as firefighters, paramedics and police, and the conditions they face in the course of their work.