World Day for Safety and Health at Work

ILO calls for making occupational safety and health a top priority in Latin America and the Caribbean

Inaction is complicity, stressed the ILO Regional Director during a virtual event to mark World Day for Safety and Health at Work, as workplaces face one of the most important struggles to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

News | 29 April 2021
29 April 2021 (Lima, Peru) – The International Labour Organization (ILO) has emphasized the need to move from commitments to action to strengthen occupational safety and health (OSH) in Latin American and Caribbean countries, to address the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19 contagions.

Representatives from governments, employers' and workers' organizations, and OSH specialists gathered for a large regional virtual meeting on World Day for Safety and Health at Work (28 April) under the theme #ResiliencewithDecentWork, to discuss greater investments for better prevention of COVID-19 and more resilient societies.

"Today more than ever we must transform our commitment into action, our work to results and our ideas into effective and immediate responses," said Vinícius Pinheiro, ILO Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, who also highlighted that "inaction is complicity right now."

The Prime Minister of Barbados, the Honourable Mia Amor Mottley, and the President of the Dominican Republic, His Excellency Luis Abinader, sent video messages highlighting their commitment to improve occupational safety and health systems.
The meeting was also attended by several Labour Ministers, including Colin E. Jordan of Barbados; Pablo Mieres of Uruguay; Angel Custodian Cabrera of Colombia; Luis Miguel De Camps García-Mella of the Dominican Republic; and Carla Bacigalupo of Paraguay.

In addition, there was representation of employers' and workers' organizations, headed by Cícero Pereira da Silva, Secretary of Social Policy of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (CSA) and Alberto Echavarría, Representative of the International Organization of Employers (OIE).

"This April 28th has a very special connotation," Pinheiro said at the opening of the event. He recalled that since the start of the pandemic just over a year ago, the crisis had cost the region nearly one million lives, destroyed 26 million jobs, and caused several businesses to close.

COVID-19's health, social and economic crisis "is the reality of millions of people in the region," he added, noting that "after all we have experienced it is not impossible for us to reorder priorities and put occupational safety and health at the top."

"We call for very ambitious actions, impact actions based on effective social dialogue to implement innovative solutions," Pinheiro said after warning that "after this crisis the workplace will never be the same, as one of the most important struggles will be fought there to prevent the spread of the virus."

The event was moderated by Colombian journalist Claudia Palacios. Other featured speakers included Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Karen Gordon-Boyle, Program Officer, Health Development Sector, Caribbean Community (CARICOM); Julietta Rodriguez-Guzman, Regional Adviser on Workers' Health of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO); and Frida Marina Fischer, Council Member of the International Occupational Health Commission (ICOH).

A recently released technical note prepared by the ILO Regional Office for this event highlighted the relevance of health and safety strategies and policies to achieve a post-pandemic recovery.
"The reactivation of productivity and economic recovery will depend significantly on strict compliance with prevention and protection measures against this biological hazard to avoid new infections and outbreaks that endanger health and threaten lives, as well as recovery strategies,” says the ILO document.

The ILO Regional Office reported that in the context of the pandemic, it launched a Regional Initiative on Occupational Safety and Health, with the aim of positioning OSH as the axis of a post pandemic economic recovery and productivity reactivation policies in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Initiative has three components, which focus on various activities that are being promoted and will be extended during 2021:
  • Promote social dialogue on the ILO's regulatory framework, as well as improve and update national laws and strengthen institutional capacity and social dialogue on OSH;
  • Develop, disseminate and provide constituents with preventive management tools in the workplace; and
  • Stimulate communication, research and partnerships aimed at strengthening OSH at the regional level.