XX World Congress on Safety and Health at Work 2014: Global Forum for Prevention

Safety and Health at Work: A Vision for Sustainable Prevention

The aim of this report is to review what is currently being done to promote sustainable prevention globally and to encourage greater participatory efforts to achieve safer and healthier workplaces.

The health and safety of the world’s workforce periodically attracts the attention of the national and international media. Industrial disasters, especially those resulting in multiple fatalities, make global headlines. But the reality is that throughout the world, many thousands of people die from their work activities every day, and numerous fatalities are unreported or ignored.

Globally, an estimated 2.3 million workers die every year from occupational accidents and work-related diseases. In addition, many millions of workers suffer non-fatal injuries and illnesses. This represents a colossal social and economic burden for enterprises, communities and countries, not to mention an appalling human and financial problem for workers and their families.

The need for prevention is both obvious and urgent. The great majority of workplace accidents and diseases are preventable, but good intentions have not always been implemented or sustained. While some may be tempted to cut back on occupational safety and health (OSH), especially during an economic downturn, it remains true that “good safety is good business”. Prevention is part of a survival strategy; those who sustain their efforts to prevent occupational accidents and diseases will find their efforts rewarded.

The importance of promoting a national preventative OSH culture has been highlighted in previous years, as has that of governments taking a responsible lead. Such an approach was endorsed by the XVIII World Congress for Safety and Health at Work in 2008 and again by the XIX World Congress in 2011 in its Istanbul Declaration.

The challenge for all stakeholders is therefore to build on these positive developments and to sustain preventative efforts in a constantly changing world of work. Prevention must remain a high priority for all stakeholders who are motivated to sustain efforts to make workplaces safer and healthier around the globe.