GENEVA (ILO News) – World Day for Safety and Health at Work is to be marked in scores of countries and hundreds of localities on all continents this year with a host of events aimed at raising awareness about what ILO Director-General Juan Somavia called the “human tragedy” of unsafe work.
The events ranging from the declaration of national days of occupational safety and health to solemn ceremonies remembering those who have fallen ill, been injured or died of work-related causes also come amid growing concerns over the impact of the global economic and jobs crisis on safety in the workplace.
“We must be particularly vigilant to ensure that strategies for adjustment and economic recovery do not follow a low road which devalues human life and safety in the workplace”, Mr. Somavia said in a statement issued for the World Day.
“Unsafe work is a human tragedy”, Mr. Somavia’s statement said. “Much of this tragedy involving millions of workers each year plays out unseen and unheard, never making the headlines. Yet so much can be prevented.”
The ILO Programme on Safety and Health at Work (SafeWork) has estimated that nearly 1 million workers suffer a workplace accident and more than 5,500 workers die each day due to accidents or disease from their work. At the same time, SafeWork officials also expressed concern that the current economic crisis could have a significant impact on safety and health at work.
“It is expected that the number of workplace accidents and diseases and ill health due to unemployment will rise in light of the present economic crisis”, says Dr. Sameera Al-Tuwaijri, Director of the SafeWork Programme. “The decrease in public spending will also compromise the capacities of labour inspectorates and other occupational safety and health services. Precarious working conditions will increase, adding to the risk of accidents and ill-health.”
The ILO has addressed safety and health at work since it was founded in 1919, and international labour standards on occupational safety and health were among the first adopted by the Organization. Mr. Somavia added, “then, as today, the call to protect workers against sickness, disease and injury arising out of employment has been at the heart of the ILO’s agenda, a major focus of standard-setting and other means of action”.
“Occupational safety and health is a human right and an integral part of a people-centred agenda for development”, Mr. Somavia said. “On this World Day, we can make a common stand for the dignity of human life at work. Work must be life giving, not life taking. Decent work is also safe work”.
World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2009 Events
This year, as in previous years a series of field events and activities are planned around the world to mark the day, ranging from conferences, exhibitions and workshops, to marches and memorial ceremonies, all of them aiming at promoting a safety and health culture in the workplace. The event last year involved some 13,000 activities in more than 100 countries according to the International Trade Unions Confederation in Brussels which monitors the scope of the annual event. The ITUC said that 28 April is now recognized officially by many countries as a national day of observation. The Theme of this year’s celebrations is “Health and life at work: A basic human right”, in reference to 90 years of commitment to the protection of workers’ health and safety and to the Seoul Declaration on Safety and Health at Work adopted at the Safety and Health Summit in 2008.
In Geneva, a panel discussion and a projection of winning films of the Safety and Health at Work International Film and Multimedia Festival 2008 is organized by the ILO and ISSA (International Social Security Association). The event, open to the public, will take place on 28 April 2009, from 11.00 to 12.30 at ILO headquarters, 4 route des Morillons, Geneva, Room XI, R-2 South Geneva.
Special guests include:
- Dr. Sameera Al-Tuwaijri, Director of the ILO SafeWork Programme
- Dr. Janet L. Asherson, Adviser - Environment, Health and Safety, Secretary-General IOE
- Ms. Raquel Gonzalez, ITUC General Office Director
- Dr. Margaret Graf, Head of the Work and Health Section, Department of Labour, State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Switzerland)
- Shirley Hickman, Executive Director, Threads of Life (Canada)
- Martina Hesse-Spötter Secretary General of the ISSA Electricity Section (Germany)
Invitation, programme, and information are available here: /public/english/protection/safework/worldday/index.htm
Providing safe and healthy workplaces for both women and men is also the April theme of the Gender Equality at the Heart of Decent Work Campaign, 2008-2009. As part of the campaign, a brochure that gives more information on the gender dimensions of safety and health at work is available here: /gender/Events/Campaign2008-2009/lang--en/WCMS_104671/index.htm.
For further information, or interviews requests, please contact the ILO Department of Communication at +4122/799-7912, firstname.lastname@example.org or regional offices.