Safety and health at work in Pacific island countries

Practising OSH in the workplace
The International Labour Organization places special importance on developing, implementing and applying a preventive safety and health culture in workplaces the world over. SafeWork, the ILO Programme on Safety and Health at Work and the Environment, aims to create worldwide awareness on the dimensions and consequences of work-related accidents, injuries and diseases; to place the health and safety of all workers on the international agenda; and to stimulate and support practical action at all levels.

In the Pacific island countries, five of the eleven member States of the ILO have national Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) legislations. They are Fiji, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The remaining member States – Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau, Tuvalu, Cook Islands and Tonga are in the process of drafting and/or finalising their legislations. In addition, Fiji, PNG and Solomon Islands are collaborating national centres for OSH with the ILO International Occupational Safety and Health Information Centre (CIS).

The increasing of international movement of Pacific islanders under the Recognized Seasonal Employer schemes to New Zealand and a similar scheme for Australia has often left many migrant workers in vulnerable positions e.g. the lack of regulatory and social support mechanisms, precarious employment, frequent exposure to hazardous conditions and very often these workers have higher rates of injury and illness compared to non-migrant workers.

The safety and health conditions at work vary between Pacific Island countries, economic sectors, social and cultural groups. Deaths and injuries take a particularly heavy toll in Islands where a large part of the population is engaged in hazardous activities, such as agriculture, fishing and mining and the poorest and least protected who are often women, children and migrants are among the most affected.
The ILO Response

ILO Country Office for South Pacific island countries has been instrumental in facilitating a south-south cooperation between the Governments of PNG and Fiji where Fiji will be providing technical assistance in the field of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) to Papua New Guinea. This is after the two countries entered in a landmark technical cooperation programme and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to extend their bilateral relations. The day when the world is observing the World Day for Health and Safety at work, Fiji signed on to assist PNG review and update its OHS legislation, system, structures and capacities. The south-south cooperation was significant because it was the first of its kind in the field of occupational safety and health.

A JICA/ILO project on Waste Management which promotes practical collaborative actions between waster collectors and the community for establishing safety and efficient waste collection systems is also being pursued in Fiji and PNG. City councils in Fiji and PNG will manage their city wastes using the WARM (Work Adjustment for Recycling and Managing Waste) training manual. The project aims to improve the safety, health and efficiency of waste collection in partnership with the people Fiji and PNG, ILO's Green Jobs Initiatives and JICA's initiatives to promote 3R (reduce, reuse and recycle wastes).

Technical Assistance will also be given to member states to draft and finalise their OSH legislations as well as promote the ILO OSH Management Systems and related Conventions and the Global Jobs Project will assist Pacific island migrant workers with the promotion of their rights and human dignity.

As Pacific island countries develop and improve their occupational safety and health legislation and management systems, they would gravitate towards including national codes of practices for workplace policies on HIV&AIDS and sexual harassment at work.