World Day for Safety and Health at Work

Address (as delivered) by Ms Simrin Director ILO Country Office for Sri Lanka & Maldives on 27 April 2018 at Hotel Galadari, Colombo 01

Statement | Sri Lanka | 28 April 2018
Dr. Wajira Palipane, Deputy Commissioner of Labour, Occupational Safety & Health Division, Department of Labour representing Mr Wimalaweera, Commissioner General of Labour who will be joining us shortly
Mr Kanishka Weerasinghe, Director General, Employers Federation of Ceylon
Mr Marimuttu, Vice President of Ceylon Workers Congress and Other colleagues from trade unions
Dr. Razia Pendse, Representative, World Health Organisation
Representatives of Ministries and Departments, including Ministry of Health
Ladies and gentlemen.
Good Morning to all of you.

I am very pleased to be able to join you today to commemorate the World Day for Safety & Health at Work. Today’s event is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Labour, employers, workers, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the ILO. I would like to thank all the constituents for their collaboration in making this event a reality.

The ILO marks the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on the 28th of April to promote the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally. It is an awareness-raising campaign intended to focus international attention on emerging trends in the field of occupational safety and health and on the magnitude of work-related injuries, diseases and fatalities worldwide.

Health and safety of workers has sadly been at the forefront of current news given the tragedy at Horana where 5 people lost their lives due to not having proper mechanisms in place. In March, an incident in Dambulla at a spice factory left two workers dead, and done was only 19 years old, a young worker. These deaths were preventable, and have brought the working conditions in factories across the country under the spotlight. Globally, young workers experience up to 40% more workplace injuries than older workers. Hence, the focus of this years campaign.

This year’s campaign for the 2018 World Day for Safety and Health at Work
focuses on improving the safety and health of young workers and is part of a joint campaign, linked with the 2018 World Day Against Child Labour (marked on 12 June), which will address hazardous child labour.

The ILO has a long-standing commitment to the promotion of decent work and safe and healthy working conditions for all workers, throughout their working lives. We would like to stress the importance of improving OSH for young workers, both in order to promote decent youth employment and in order to contribute to efforts aimed at combatting hazardous child labour. Taking serious steps to address OSH for young workers has two benefits: creating the safe and healthy workplaces that meet the needs of young workers and reducing the number of children engaged in hazardous child labour.

In order to build a generation of safe and healthy workers, preparation must begin early, starting with parental and community awareness. For young people to be aware of risks and able to advocate on their own behalf, education about work hazards and risks, as well as about workers‘ rights, needs to start in school and continue through vocational training and apprenticeship programmes.

Employers, including both formal and informal enterprises, and family businesses, need guidance on the risk factors that young workers face and on work tasks and conditions that are age-appropriate. Lastly, support and representation by workers’ organizations, as young people enter the world of work, is essential if young workers are to be able to exercise their rights and voice their concerns.

Many countries are making significant investments in young people’s employment, education, training, skills development and job creation. It is critically important to include occupational safety and health (OSH) in these programmes. Hence, it is necessary to understand and address the specific safety and health risk factors faced by young workers between the ages of 15 and 24. Young workers under the age of 18 are recognized in law and policy as a vulnerable group and provided with special protections under child labour standards and hazardous work prohibitions, but those between the ages of 18 and 24 do not receive comparable legal recognition or levels of protection in the workplace, despite their continuing and increased risk of injury.

By improving the safety and health of young workers Sri Lanka will be able to contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8 on decent work and economic growth. This will help us in reaching Target 8.8 on safe and secure working environments for all workers by 2030, and Target 8.7 on ending all forms of child labour by 2025.

However, reaching these targets requires that Governments, employers, and workers and other key stakeholders collaborate to create a culture of prevention that focuses on the safety and health of the next generation of the global workforce.

I hope today’s consultation will provide an opportunity for all of us to take a critical look at the current safety and health conditions of all workers with a special focus on young workers who are the most vulnerable and to have a dialogue on what should be done to improve the occupational safety and health conditions at the workplace.