Safe, healthy work environment principal right of every worker

It is now 10 years since the Rana Plaza building located in Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed. On that fateful day, at least 1,132 people mainly garment workers were killed and more than 2,500 were injured.The disaster seized global attention and led to change. Yet, while a major catastrophe such as Rana Plaza captures headlines, accidents and deaths occur in workplaces across every country daily. In fact, at least 2.9 million women and men around the world succumb to work-related accidents or diseases every year; that’s over 8 thousand deaths every single day. The toll is enormous, both in terms of personal tragedy and hardship as well as economic loss. In June 2022, the International Labour Organization (ILO) took a historic step when it added safe and healthy working environment to its Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Why does this matter? It matters because occupational safety and health can now no longer be viewed as an optional extra. All of ILO’s 186 member states are now obligated to respect, promote, and achieve a safe and healthy working environment as a fundamental principle and right at work, irrespective of whether they have ratified either of the ILO’s conventions relating to occupational safety and health. This is significant for several reasons. First and foremost, it recognizes that every worker has the right to be protected from hazards and risks that can cause injury, illness, or death in the workplace. By making occupational safety and health (OSH) a fundamental right, the ILO is sending a clear message to governments and employers that they must take responsibility for providing a safe and healthy working environment for all workers. Protecting workers’ health and well-being is not just a moral imperative; it makes good business sense, too, as a recent cost-benefit analysis carried out by the ASEAN Secretariat on OSH in the construction sector showed. When workers feel safe and healthy in their workplace, they are more likely to be productive and efficient. This can benefit workers, employers, as well as the wider economy. Conversely, when workers are injured or become ill due to workplace hazards, it can have a significant negative impact on productivity and economic growth. Making OSH a fundamental right promotes social justice and equality. This is particularly important for workers in marginalized communities who may be at greater risk of workplace hazards due to factors such as poverty, discrimination, and lack of access to education, training, and OSH services. It is also important in terms of ensuring compliance with OSH regulations and standards, which, in turn, can lead to better working conditions and improved health outcomes for workers. In Asia and the Pacific, progress on OSH is being made on many fronts. ILO OSH-related conventions have been ratified while there are new national OSH policies, laws, and programs across the region. For instance, Indonesia has just recently published its National OSH Profile to sharpen national policies and programs to make them more contextual and human-centered and promote OSH culture in the country. The profile has been developed based on consultations with relevant OSH stakeholders, including the ILO, and underlines the various efforts taken by the country to further strengthen the OSH management system and boost the country’s economy. Steps are being taken to ensure that no one is left behind, with efforts made, for example, to reach out to sanitation and waste recycling workers in South Asia and the smallest enterprises and informal economy workers in ASEAN. Meanwhile, the capacity of labor inspectors — who are on the front line of efforts to ensure workplaces are safe and healthy — has been boosted through training and the use of technology. These are all important initiatives, which must be applauded and supported. However, for OSH to become a daily reality for all workers, it must be addressed alongside ILO’s other Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. These relate to freedom of association and collective bargaining, the elimination of forced and child labor, as well as ending discrimination in the world of work. The participation of both employers and workers through social dialogue and workplace cooperation is vital if a sound culture of prevention in OSH is to be created. Freedom of association and collective bargaining help workers organize and negotiate for better working conditions, including safety and health. Without these rights, workers may be unable to advocate for themselves and may be more vulnerable to exploitation and mistreatment. Trade unions have an important role to play in this regard, helping voice the concerns of workers as well as training them in OSH basics. Meanwhile, enterprise-level OSH committees, such as those set up in the Indonesian palm oil industry as well as the Bangladesh garment sector, allow workers and employers to address safety and health issues face to face and as equals. Forced and child labor, as well as discrimination in respect of gender, age, migrant status, employment, and occupation, are also all intrinsically linked with workplace safety and health. Unless they, too, are tackled, men, women, the aged, the youth, and the vulnerable will continue to find themselves toiling in hazardous circumstances, where accidents are commonplace and social protection rare. safe and healthy working environment is now a fundamental right for each and every worker. Governments, employers, trade unions as well as companies at every level of the supply chain must work together to make this right a reality. We can do so through shared commitment, joint efforts, and by taking a holistic approach — one that recognizes and promotes all fundamental workers’ rights and helps deliver social justice and decent work for all. ) Chihoko Asada-Miyakawa is the International Labour Organization’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. The views and opinions expressed on this page are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the ANTARA News Agency. (INE)

Source: Antara News Agency