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Occupational Safety and Health

OSH measures key to prevent violence and harassment in the world of work, says ILO report

A new ILO report emphasizes using Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) frameworks to address the root causes of violence and harassment and to encourage collective action for better work environments.

Press release | 22 January 2024

GENEVA (ILO News) – Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) measures are key to building an inclusive, integrated and gender-responsive approach to preventing and eliminating violence and harassment in the world of work, a new International Labour Organization (ILO) report finds.

The report, Preventing and addressing violence and harassment in the world of work through occupational safety and health measures, finds that more than one-in-five people in employment have experienced violence and harassment. This issue can affect all types of workplaces and can also occur during commutes, work-related trips, events, digital communications, social activities and in home-based offices.

The report emphasizes that OSH frameworks tackle root causes of violence and harassment by addressing underlying risks such as inadequate work organization, factors related to specific tasks (e.g. working alone or constantly interacting with third parties), and working conditions that produce high stress levels that in turn lead to violence and harassment. Occupational safety and health frameworks that are based on workplace cooperation and social dialogue, mobilize both employers and workers to create working environments free from violence and harassment, the analysis says.

In the 25 countries studied, about two-thirds of all legal provisions on workplace violence and harassment are contained in OSH legislation and regulations, the study finds. OSH policies are more detailed in outlining preventive strategies and defining the responsibilities of employers and workers when compared to other regulatory approaches.

In the Americas, Europe and Central Asia, provisions on violence and harassment are mainly embedded in laws governing OSH, while in Asia Pacific and the Arab States the focus has been on addressing sexual harassment through targeted legal frameworks. In Denmark, there are specific laws to prevent violence and harassment, while El Salvador recognizes it as a psychosocial risk. Spain and Tunisia have broad OSH laws that could cover violence and harassment, but only Spain explicitly acknowledges and provides guidance on managing it. Policies in Barbados and Bangladesh mainly address sexual harassment.

© S. Gombert / Cultura Creative
Practical tools, training programmes and guidelines tailored for enterprises and workplaces can help put violence and harassment policies into practice, the report says. These tools explain the steps needed to implement interventions to tackle violence and harassment and help carrying out complex tasks such as workplace risk assessments, emphasizes the report.

The report is being issued as part of a research project, “Practical guidance and tools to prevent and address violence and harassment in the world of work: An OSH perspective”, which is jointly funded by the European Commission and the ILO. Its launch is being followed by a Conference on Preventing and Addressing Violence and Harassment in the World of Work through Occupational Safety and Health, on 23 January, in Geneva.

The adoption of the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190), and its Recommendation (No. 206) was a significant milestone in the international commitment to ensure the right to a workplace free from violence and harassment. In 2022 the International Labour Conference strengthened this commitment by including a safe and healthy working environment among the fundamental rights covered in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.