GENEVA (ILO News) - Workers, employers, governments and safety and health departments around the world, in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO), will observe the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April in an effort to highlight the need for a new "safety culture" to reduce or prevent occupational accidents and disease that take an average of 6,000 lives every day of the year ( Note 1).
From Addis Ababa to Zimbabwe, from Bhopal to Belgium, the ILO and its tripartite partners are planning a series of events ranging from commemorations for workers who lost their lives or their health as a result of workplace accidents to symposia, memorials, marches and talk shows aimed at promoting a "safety culture" called for by the ILO International Labour Conference last year.
The ILO observes the World Day to stress the value of prevention of accidents and illness at work. The event capitalizes on the ILO's traditional strengths of tripartism and social dialogue, as it brings together both workers and employers in concert with Governments to raise awareness about occupational safety and health.
"Promoting a Safety Culture is the theme of this year's World Day for Safety and Health at Work," said Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, in a special message prepared for the day. "Governments, employers and workers all have an interest in safe and healthy workplaces. It offers a sound basis for successful social dialogue and consensus building."
ILO Director-General Juan Somavia, in a message for the day said: "A safety culture must be nurtured through partnership and dialogue - governments, employers and workers within a framework of rights, responsibilities and duties, finding common ground, creating safe and healthy work places. I strongly believe that this is one of the most fertile areas for reaching consensus in the world of work."
A solemn anniversary
This year's commemoration coincides with the 20th anniversary of one of the worst chemical disasters recorded, the 1984 gas leak from a Union Carbide pesticides factory in Bhopal, India, which killed 2,500 people and injured over 200,000 in the space of a few hours and caused an additional 20,000 deaths later. In a special report entitled "Safe Work and Safety Culture", the ILO observes that despite the fact that the outcry over Bhopal has prompted increased attention to the dangers of industrial accidents, the potential for major disasters accidents remains real and requires a wide-ranging response ( Note 2).
In addition to the 400,000 deaths attributable to hazardous substances that occur each year, the ILO notes that this is only a percentage of the total of some 2,2 million work-related fatalities and some 160 million work-related diseases that occur annually. This grim toll requires greater hazard control based on ILO conventions and practical safety measures as a first step toward creating a global "safety culture".
"Experience has shown that a strong safety culture is beneficial for workers, employers and governments alike", says the chief ILO occupational safety specialist Jukka Takala. "Various prevention techniques have proven themselves as effective in both avoiding workplace accidents and improving business performance. Today's high safety standards in some countries are a direct result of long-term policies encouraging tripartite social dialogue, collective bargaining between trade unions and employers, as well as effective health and safety legislation backed by potent labour inspection."