Hazardous Work

It is a known fact that certain sectors and occupations are more dangerous than others. Protecting workers in hazardous conditions – in what is often known as the “3D”, dirty, difficult and dangerous, jobs – is therefore a primary focus of the SafeWork programme.

Priority is given to workers in the most hazardous sectors and occupations, such as agriculture, construction, mining, or ship-breaking, or where working relationships or conditions create particular risks, such as exposure to hazardous agents, such as chemical substances or radiation, or in the informal economy.

Occupational deaths and injuries and work-related diseases take a particularly heavy toll in developing countries, where large numbers of workers are concentrated in the primary and extractive activities mentioned above. It often happens that these countries are also those without adequate technical and economic capacities to maintain effective national OSH systems, particularly regulatory and enforcement mechanisms. In the industrialised market economy countries, on the other hand, there is a general trend to a decrease in the numbers of occupational accidents and diseases, reflecting a decrease in the “traditional” risks, itself associated with a shift from employment in high risk sectors to services. In all countries the changing world of work is leading to an increase in smaller businesses, changes in the characteristics of organisations, changes in working time and organisation, increase in non-standard work and employment contracts and changes in the composition of the workforce, with a higher percentage of older workers and women workers. The traditional hazard and risk prevention and control tools may be still effective but they need to be complemented by prevention strategies to anticipate, identify, evaluate and control hazards arising from the constantly evolving world of work which itself may be introducing new hazards.

The SafeWork programme in this context is making use of its extensive experience in promoting standards, codes of practice, technical guides and training materials, as well as developing means of practical action for the protection of workers in hazardous conditions. It has developed a series of International Hazard Datasheets on Occupations (HDO), in collaboration with the Israel Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene and National ILO/CIS Occupational Safety and Health Information Centres throughout the world. An International Hazard Datasheet on Occupations is a multipurpose information resource containing information on the hazards, risks and notions of prevention related to a specific occupation. The datasheets list in a standard format different hazards to which a worker, in the normal course of normal work, may be exposed. They provide several measures for the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases.

SafeWork also works closely with the ILO Sectoral Activities Unit (SECTOR), particularly in the areas of OSH in agriculture, construction, mining and ship-breaking, and with the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), in the area of hazardous work for children and young workers.