Alarming situation of occupational safety and health in Iraq, particularly in the oil and gas sector

Press release | 12 November 2022
Basra, Iraq (ILO News) Participants at a workshop on occupational safety and health in the oil and gas sector voiced their concerns about the worrying situation of occupational safety and health in Iraq, particularly in the oil and gas sector.

The workshop, which took place in Basra on November 11 & 12, was organized by the IndustriALL Global Union, with the participation of a number of workers unions, the International Labour Organization in Iraq, and the National Center of Health and Safety-Basra Branch.

The participants called for addressing the issue of occupational safety and health with an integrated vision that takes into account climate change resulting from global warming and environmental pollution. The emission of gases from extraction operations and oil industries is considered as one of the main reasons behind the aggravation of this issue in the southern governorates in general and Basra in particular.

Participants pointed to the phenomenon of disease outbreak directly related to the activities of certain occupations due to employers' poor compliance with occupational safety and health measures.

This bleak picture requires all government, business owners, workers unions, civil society organizations, international organizations, and development partners to take serious steps to improve the work environment, the most important of which is the development of the legislative framework, and in particular the speedy enactment of the Occupational Safety and Health Law in line with International Labour Organization Convention 155 on Occupational Safety and Health.

During the discussions, participants also referred to the adoption by the International Labour Conference this year of the right to a safe and healthy work environment as one of the fundamental principles and rights at work.

They also called for the establishment of national policies and mechanisms to effectively monitor the compliance of companies operating in the oil and gas sector, taking into account the steps recently taken by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs through its close cooperation with the International Labour Organization in Iraq. This included discussion on the preparation of a national policy, profile and programme for occupational safety and health, emphasizing the continuation of technical cooperation during the coming years in the field of occupational safety and health in relation to the implementation of the provisions of this policy, activating the notification and recording system of accidents and work injuries for workers as well as occupational diseases developed by the International Labour Organization in Iraq, and periodically building the capacities of the Ministry in the area of ​​strategic compliance planning for occupational safety and health inspections.

In conclusion, the participants agreed that promoting high levels of health and safety at work is the responsibility of the entire community, where a culture of occupational safety and health must be instilled and maintained at the national level, and for all spectrums of Iraqi society, in addition to the media to actively contribute to achieving this goal by giving priority for health and safety in national strategies.

Representatives at the workshop also appealed to all parties to develop plans and programmes for a just transition to an environment that uses clean energy and technology and that places the protection of workers’ health and safety at the top of its priorities since workers are the basic nucleus for building advanced and modern societies.