World Day for Safety and Health at Work

How data can protect workers’ health and lives

This year’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work focuses on the critical need for countries to improve their capacity to collect and utilize reliable occupational safety and health data. Dr Francisco Santos-O'Connor (ILO Senior Specialist in Occupational Safety and Health – OSH for Asia) explains the importance of optimizing the collection and use of these data.

Comment | Bangkok, Thailand | 28 April 2017
World Day for Safety and Health at Work (28 April)
According to the latest ILO estimates, 1.4 million work-related deaths occur annually in Asia and the Pacific out of the 2.3 million worldwide. This means the region accounted for 70 per cent of the global fatal occupational accidents and 60 per cent of the work-related fatal diseases. Most work-related deaths and non-fatal accidents occur in low- and middle-income countries of the region.

However, in reality, the situation in Asia-Pacific could be even worse as the problem can only be estimated due to the lack of data. Challenges in collecting OSH data that is accurate, comparable and timely hinder the analysis of scope, nature, causes and impact of occupational accidents and disease.

Official reporting requirements are based on multiple criteria which change over time and do not cover all categories of workers (such as self-employed and informal workers).

In fact, no country reports all work-related diseases. Even countries with well-established reporting practices often do not report all cases, particularly non-fatal injuries or occupational diseases. Therefore, official figures provide only a partial assessment of the situation which to date can be only estimated.

Yet, such information and analysis is pivotal for devising effective and evidence-based policies and preventive measures both at country and enterprise levels.

Improved OSH data can help secure working environments for all workers. It draws attention on high risk activities and most vulnerable categories of workers. It enables labour inspectorates to carry out their preventive mandate and it gives countries the means to monitor and assess the needs for and the impact of their OSH policies.

Over the past century, measures have been developed to improve OSH reporting and new technologies can facilitate access to timely sources of information on occupational safety and health data.

The ILO and its member States started to work on improving OSH data comparability in 1923, when industrial accident statistics were placed on the agenda of the First International Conference of Labour Statisticians. Moreover, ILO OSH Conventions require ratifying member States to establish mechanisms to collect reliable OSH data and the ILO has also developed tools to support this work

Contributing to the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 8

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls on countries to collect, utilize and report OSH data as a means to measure progress in protecting labour rights and promoting safe and secure working environments for all workers.

Countries have the primary responsibility for follow-up and review of the progress made in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will require quality and accessible data collection. Regional follow-up and review will be based on national-level analyses and contribute to follow-up and review at the global level.

The ILO works to promote a culture of prevention on OSH to protect all workers’ health and lives. It can be achieved with the joint commitment of governments, workers and employers, and with accurate, comparable and timely data.

> Further information on the World Day for Safety and Health at Work