Safety and health at work at the heart of Sustainable Development Goals

Safety and health at work at the heart of Sustainable Development Goals

To mark the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April 2019, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has published a report to remember all workers being or having being exposed to dangerous and toxic substances, and those having suffered from work-related accidents and illnesses.

According to recent estimates released by the ILO, each year 2.78 million workers die from occupational accidents and work-related diseases (of which 2.4 million are disease-related) and an additional 374 million workers suffer from non-fatal occupational accidents[1].

Aside from the economic cost, there is an intangible cost, not fully recognised in these figures, of the immeasurable human suffering caused by occupational accidents and work-related diseases. This is tragic and regrettable because, as research and practice over the past century have repeatedly demonstrated, they are largely preventable.

Psychosocial risks, work-related stress and non-communicable diseases are of growing concern for many workers in all parts of the world. At the same time, many workers remain challenged by persistent work-related safety and health risks and it is important not to overlook the workers who face these risks as we look to the future.

As stated by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes, Mr. Baskut Tuncak, at the September 2018 session of the Human Rights Council: “Workers’ rights are human rights. No one should be denied their basic human rights, including the rights to life and health because of the work they perform[2]”.

Safety and health at work can be key to sustainable development. Investment in OSH can help contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages and SDG 8, to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all – in particular Target 8.8, to protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment.

A considerable task thus remains for governments, employers, workers and other stakeholders in building present and future generations of safe and healthy workers. SOLIDAR wishes to stress the need for an effective application of existing standards in OSH, as well as the need to reinforce the role of social partners to address safety and health concerns of the future, especially in the context of rapidly advancing technologies, demographics, human-induced climate change, and changes in work organisation.


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