Message by Juan Somavia Director-General of the ILO on the occasion of World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2012

In his message for the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, celebrated 28 April of each year, the ILO Director General reiterated the need to focus on the promotion of safer and healthier workplaces in the transition to a greener economy.

Statement | Geneva, Switzerland | 25 April 2012

On this World Day for Safety and Health at Work it is timely to focus on the opportunity to promote safer and healthier workplaces as part of decent work strategies in the transition to a greener economy.

The Rio +20 Summit will address the challenge of ensuring that sustainable development is built on economic growth and social equity as well as environmental protection. Realizing this vision of sustainable development requires integrated and mutually reinforcing policy approaches bringing together the needs of people and the planet, linking growth and fairness.

Protecting the right of all workers to a safe and healthy working environment respects human dignity and the dignity of work and is integral to a socially inclusive approach. This is why occupational safety and health is embedded in the goal of decent work and decent work for all is central to the social pillar of sustainable development.

ILO standards on occupational safety and health provide guidance to governments, employers and workers and their organizations, and all stakeholders on the prevention and management of occupational hazards and risks. They also give guidance on the control measures that prevent negative workplace impact on the environment.

Awareness raising and prevention underpin strategies to reduce the incidence of occupational injury, illness and fatalities. Social dialogue is a valuable and indispensable tool. All of these must feature prominently in the transition to a greener economy.

Experience has already shown that some substances while being more environmentally friendly could be more hazardous to workers’ health. Consequently, renewable energies, waste management and recycling, as well as the greening of traditional industries must be approached from the outset with an eye on the occupational safety and health challenges with the aim of eliminating old hazards and risks and preventing new ones from emerging.

Let us strive for a win-win situation for all – workers, families, communities, enterprises, economies, and the environment.

Let us make the safety and health of all workers – in the formal and informal economy – a primary and direct objective of policies and strategies for an environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive green economy.

Let us opt for the approach that produces safe and healthy work in sustainable enterprises, poverty reduction and a growth path that yields more and better jobs.