World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2015

ILO Director-General: Building a culture of prevention on occupational safety and health

Statement | 28 April 2015
The news is punctuated periodically by intense coverage of dramatic, heartbreaking stories that capture global attention: health workers infected while caring for patients with deadly diseases, trapped miners who may or may not resurface, factory building collapses, plane crashes, explosions of oil rigs and nuclear accidents.

While the media eventually move on to other topics, working in hazardous conditions is actually a daily, routine and unseen affair for many workers. The numbers are striking. Over 313 million workers suffer non-fatal occupational injuries each year, equating to 860,000 people injured on the job daily. Every single day, 6,400 people die from an occupational accident or disease, amounting to 2.3 million deaths each year. Work-related accidents or diseases can definitely be placed in the high-burden category of all global health problems.

Economic recession or pressure to maximize profits cannot justify cutting corners in workplace safety.

Actually, failure to do so comes at a high price. Four per cent of global gross domestic product, equivalent to an astounding US$2.8 trillion, is drained off annually by costs related to lost working time, interruptions in production, treatment of occupational injuries and diseases, rehabilitation and compensation.

A long-standing ILO priority, occupational safety and health was recognized as a fundamental human right in the 2008 Seoul Declaration on Safety and Health at Work. It is time to turn this human right into reality for workers everywhere.

Good governance on occupational safety and health shows that prevention pays. Today, on the occasion of World Day for Safety and Health at Work, the ILO calls for urgent action to build a culture of prevention on occupational safety and health.

What does a national culture of prevention on occupational safety and health involve?
  • Respecting at all levels the right to a safe and healthy working environment;
  • Active participation of all stakeholders in securing a safe and healthy working environment through a system of defined rights, responsibilities and duties; and
  • According the highest priority to the principle of prevention.
How do we build and maintain a culture of prevention?
It must be founded on the engagement of many partners: governments, workers and employers and their organizations, specialists and experts.

Constructive dialogue among these groups promotes consensus building and democratic involvement of those with a vital stake in the world of work.

It is time to consolidate occupational safety and health achievements in prevention. Good practices should be shared, promoted and emulated where possible and partnerships forged to accelerate progress towards building a global culture of prevention.

Raising awareness and knowledge of occupational hazards and risks and how to prevent and control them is key for this process. Good governance will strengthen country capacities and also facilitate mobilization of national and international resources. Spending these funds wisely requires the creation and implementation of effective national occupational safety and health strategies with the aim of extending them to all sectors including micro- and small enterprises, the informal economy and agriculture.

Each and every one of us can contribute to the prevention of occupational deaths, injuries and diseases. I invite you to join the ILO’s new Safe Day Campaign which we are launching to raise awareness, secure greater engagement people and support stakeholders. Together we can build a culture of prevention on occupational safety and health.