Labour sector to play a key role in the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5)

News | 14 September 2023
The International Labour Organization (ILO) will be attending the fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5, 25 to 29 September 2023) and taking an active role in engaging labour sector constituents. A significant number of labour sector representatives, from government, employer groups and workers’ organizations, will participate as part of the labour sector delegation, with the goal of successfully collaborating to promote occupational safety and health in this global forum on hazardous chemicals.

The ICCM undertakes periodic reviews of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), which is a policy framework to promote chemical safety around the world. ICCM5 has a potential to be an important milestone with the expected adoption of the “The Beyond 2020 global chemical and waste framework” and the Bonn High-level Declaration on Chemicals and Waste.

Ahead of ICCM5, the ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo spoke at the 2023 Berlin Forum on Chemicals and Sustainability:

The widespread use of hazardous chemicals demands our urgent attention, as it impacts the safety and health of workers, the public, and the environment, and threatens our broader aims of decent work and social justice for all. Workers are among those most exposed to hazardous chemicals, with more than 1 billion workers exposed each year. Of these, more than 1 million workers lose their lives due to hazardous chemical exposures, while countless others suffer from debilitating diseases and lifelong disabilities. 

With the right to ‘a safe and healthy working environment’ now considered a fundamental principle and right at work, reducing these tragic preventable deaths and injuries must be a priority.

The ILO has long recognized that the protection of workers from hazardous chemicals is essential to ensuring healthy populations, as well as sustainable environments. It has adopted more than 50 legal instruments on the protection of workers, as well as the public and the environment, from chemical hazards, including the Chemicals Convention, 1990 (No.170) and the Prevention of Major Industrial Accidents Convention, 1993 (No. 174). Looking forward, the ILO will also be engaging in the development of a new standard to complement Convention No. 170 and revising five older instruments, to ensure continued relevance of the ILO normative framework on chemical hazards. This is truly a timely development and will allow for consolidation of recent global work on chemicals management through the SAICM process.

The ILO has been involved in SAICM process since 2006, when it was approved by the ILO Governing Body. With its extensive body of legally binding standards related to chemical safety, the ILO will play a critical role in the SAICM process, including the successful implementation of SAICM and the instrument that comes out of Bonn. The ILO recognizes the importance of making a broader link between hazardous chemical exposures and other emerging occupational safety and health risks, for example climate change and the just transition. By prioritizing the sound management of chemicals and wastes within a just transition, we can work towards improved processes that protect workers from hazardous exposures to chemicals, while at the same time greening the economy in a way that is as inclusive as possible to everyone concerned, creating decent work opportunities and leaving no one behind.