Climate crisis a major workplace risk, warns ITUC

#iwmd24   |   Climate risks for workers   |    ITUC International Workers’ Memorial Day/Day of Mourning theme announced

The climate crisis is creating new and heightened occupational risks to workers, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is warning.

Extreme weather and changing weather patterns are affected job security and health for workers, the global union body says. In response to the crisis, it says, the theme for International Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April 2024 will be ‘Climate risks for workers’.

 Heat-related deaths and diseases in workers in agriculture, construction and other outdoor jobs have soared, ITUC notes. It adds work in extreme weather can cause fatigue and increases in workplace injuries and stress-related disease. Elevated levels of airborne pollution associated with heatwaves can lead to increased hospitalisations and deaths, it warns. And it adds higher UV exposures place workers at risk of chronic health problems, including skin cancer and eye damage (macular degeneration).

The ITUC alert comes in the wake of climate-related health warnings from UN agencies. A World Health Organisation (WHO) December 2023 statement noted the year had witnessed “an alarming surge in climate-related disasters, including wildfires, heatwaves and droughts, leading to the displacement of populations, agricultural losses and heightened air pollution. The ongoing climate crisis has significantly increased the risk of life-threatening diseases such as cholera, malaria and dengue.”

A September 2023 International Labour Organisation (ILO) just transition policy brief, Occupational safety and health in a just transition, noted the climate crisis “without proper controls in place, may increase the risk for injury, disease and death for workers due to heat stress, extreme weather events, exposure to hazardous chemicals, air pollution and infectious disease, among others.”

ILO added: “Numerous health effects on workers have been linked to climate change, including injuries, cancer cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions, and effects on their psychosocial health. There has been an increase in the estimated number of deaths among the global working-age population due to exposure to hot temperatures.”

ITUC notes that climate change is also putting workers at increased risk from infections. “The climate crisis, urbanisation and changing land use are impacting on occupational health and safety and have led to biological hazards posing new risk or risks in new places,” a December 2024 ITUC briefing on biological hazards notes.

It is a point reinforced in the ILO just transition policy brief, which warns “risks from vector-borne diseases, such as malaria or dengue fever, will increase with warming temperatures, including potential shifts in geographic range of these vectors as a result of climate change.

“This development affects all workers, especially outdoor workers who are at higher risk of contracting vector-borne diseases, from vectors such as mosquitoes, fleas and ticks. Moreover, infectious diseases may also affect workers via waterborne and foodborne pathogens, such as Salmonella spp. when they have direct contact with contaminated water or food.”

ILO has said it will commemorate World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April, and will follow the theme adopted by ITUC and unions worldwide, focusing on “the impacts of climate change on occupational safety and health”. ILO added it will produce supporting promotional materials including a poster and report and will organise a global event with experts and guest speakers from governments, employers and workers “to discuss how to protect workers and respond to this global challenge.”

ITUC will produce its own guides and social media resources which will be available on its dedicated International Workers’ Memorial Day website, www.28april.org

Resources

ITUC climate change webpages.

ITUC global shifts – just transition webpages.

Hazards climate and workers’ health webpages.

ILO adopts climate risks theme for 28 April 2024

The impacts of climate change on occupational safety and health

Every 28 April, the International Labour Organization (ILO) commemorates the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, focusing on a timely theme related to occupational safety and health.This year, the theme will mirror the theme adopted by unions worldwide, and will focus on exploring the impacts of climate change on occupational safety and health.Changing weather patterns have notable impacts on the world of work, particularly affecting workers safety and health. Examples of occupational risks exacerbated by climate change include heat stressUV radiationair pollutionmajor industrial accidentsextreme weather events, an increase in vector-born diseases and increased exposure to chemicals.The ILO will produce several materials for the World Day 2024, including a report, promotional materials, as well as a global event with experts and guest speakers from governments, employers and workers to discuss how to protect workers and respond to this global challenge (April 2024 Exact Date To be announced).

Promotional Materials

 

Contact Information

Safe Day Team


Email : safeday@ilo.org

Manal Azzi, Occupational Safety and Health Team Lead


Email : azzi@ilo.org

https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/safety-and-health-at-work/events-training/events-meetings/safeday2024/lang–en/index.htm

 

 

 

France: CFDT calls for the right to walk out of overheated workplaces – #iwmd23

Construction confederation BWI member, CFDT, made a 28 April call to have heat recognised as ‘bad weather’ and thus allow workers to stop their work.

CFDT homepage

Belgium: On 28 April unions commemorated workplace victims and warned of the dangers of atypical working – #iwmd23

BWI affiliate ACV  conducted a ceremony with invited  Italian unions to commemorate the Italian workers who worked in the mines in Belgium.

FTGB, another BWI affiliate, reported the results of a survey investigating the impact of atypical working hours on workers’ well-being (weekends, nights, etc.). The headline finding is that ninety per cent of workers on atypical hours will not “be able to last until 65 years old!”

 

France: Meetings, protests and tributes to mark 28 April – #iwmd23

In France, BWI member CGT conducted several activities to mark 28 April including a meeting at the Ministry of Labour, a protest
at a construction site of Grand Paris and the installation of a plaque in tribute to victims of occupational accidents and diseases.

Global: Call to strengthen global tools to limit trade in toxic chemicals – IUF #iwmd23

On April 28, International Workers Memorial Day, we mourn those killed at work and pledge to fight hard for the living by winning safer workplaces.

In 2022, the ILO’s International Labour Conference agreed to include the right to a safe and healthy workplaces as a fundamental right at work alongside the right to collective bargaining and freedom of association, equality, no forced labour and no child labour.

Exposure to pesticides regularly kills or destroys the health of thousands of agricultural workers. A shocking report in 2021 estimated that there are 385 million cases of unintentional, acute pesticide poisonings annually including 11,000 fatalities among farmers and farmworkers.

This year, the IUF is joining with global unions and national federations to demand more effective control of the international trade in hazardous chemicals. There are more than 350,000 chemicals circulating in the global economy, supposedly controlled by the Rotterdam Convention; however, the labour movement has been highly critical of the Convention for its weak procedure resulting in the failure to control paraquat and asbestos. Also concerning is the influence of the pesticides industry over the application of the Convention.

Currently, the Convention’s Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure for hazardous chemicals and pesticides ensures that countries exporting pesticides must seek the prior informed consent of the importing countries before shipping; however, to list products using the PIC procedure requires consensus. This requirement, initially introduced to foster cooperation, has instead evolved into a veto mechanism that is now threatening the viability and effectiveness of the Convention.  A small group of countries continue to block the listing of several highly hazardous substances.

In May 2023, the 11th Conference of Parties for the Rotterdam Convention will be meeting in Geneva, and the IUF along with sister global unions will be campaigning for the adoption of a new annex to the Convention which will allow parties who want to share information about a substance considered dangerous by the Chemical Review Committee to do so, even when the listing of the substance has been blocked by a failure to reach consensus. Listing on the new annex will require a 75% majority vote. Furthermore, for chemicals listed in the new Annex VIII, explicit prior informed consent will be required from the importing country before the hazardous substances can be shipped.

In addition to union support, the amendment is strongly supported by many countries and numerous experts including three UN Special Rapporteurs: Marcos Orellana, Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights; David R. Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; and Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.

They have issued a joint statement which recognizes the importance of the Rotterdam Convention as a “tool to advance the right to information and effectively prevent exposure of people, soil, and water resources to toxics” but criticizes the procedure which allows a handful of countries to “persistently block the listing of hazardous chemicals.”

Click HERE to read the IUF’s press release.

“The breakdown of the science-policy interface mechanism in the Rotterdam Convention undermines the realization of the human right to science and the effectiveness of the instrument. Governments have a duty to align their policies with the best” available scientific evidence.
UN Special Rapporteurs statement

Europe: BWI’s “Make it happen” campaign sweeps Pan Europe

On International Workers Memorial Day, BWI affiliates across the Pan European region gathered together to raise their voices and demand that occupational health and safety become a reality in every workplace across the continent.

Over the last year, BWI affiliates throughout Europe signed over 100 Declarations with employers and employer associations to recognise occupational health and safety as a fundamental worker’s right. Many BWI affiliates decided this year to return to employers who have signed the said declarations and meet with workers to see if the situation had improved over the year.

Tajikistan’s building workers union was able to arrange 27 union meetings with 500 workers employed in different construction sites. Workers voiced their full support for BWI “Make It Happen” campaign as they conceded that occupational health and safety remains a major concern in the construction industry.

Over 50 activities were organised by BWI affiliates across Europe to support BWI’s “Make it Happen” campaign, including meetings with workers, issuance of trade union statements and videos, TV interviews, conferences, and workshops.

BWI news

Asia-Pacific: OHS as a right, make it happen! #iwmd23

37 unions throughout the Asia Pacific region organized various mobilisations, concerted actions, and other activities to support the adoption of workplace health and safety as a fundamental worker right. This was in response to BWI’s call to its affiliates to push governments and employers to implement the said right as it marked the 2023 International Workers’ Memorial Day. The unions in India, Nepal, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Myanmar, South Korea, and the Philippines organised demonstrations, held meetings to raise awareness on workplace safety, and distributed free personal protective equipment (PPE). In other places, unions and the employers  collaborated on joint actions to reaffirm their commitment to upholding safe and healthy working conditions.

In Nepal, the BWI-Nepal Affiliates Committee (BWI-NAC) organised a campaign action at a construction site in Bhaktapur. Crecentia Mofokeng, BWI Regional Representative for Africa-MENA, joined the activity. She was in Nepal for the Homenet International Congress.

In South India, the TKTMS organised a march that culminated in a town hall meeting attended by construction industry employers’ representatives. The INCWF sponsored a health and safety training at two cement plants in the state of Karnataka. At the same time, the Rajasthan state’s RPKNMS and AHBWU held popular activities to raise OSH awareness among stone quarry employees. Elsewhere in India, BWI affiliates TCTU, AIKTMS, DANMU, MAMU, NMPS, CFBWU, OKKS, OFMFPWU, RWO, INBCWF, SGEU, PMLU, AHPWDIPHCWU, CLU, HKMP, BMS, BMS Gujarat, BNKMU, UPGMS, and KSCWCU also reported IWMD-themed events.

For its part, the ACE-EU in Pakistan convened a joint training with employer representatives to promote OSH as a fundamental and implementable right of workers., while the PFBWW called for a workers’ meeting at  the IFI-funded Tarbela Dam infrastructure project and the BWF led awareness activities in the brick kiln industry.

Meanwhile, health and safety rallies and meetings, led by BBWWF and BSBWWF, dominated the marking of the IWMD in Sri Lanka.

The NUBCW organised a legal and advocacy course in the Philippines to lobby for the implementation of OHS laws in the country. In addition, the NUBCW held an anti-sexual harassment training and lecture for Engineering Equipment Incorporated unions, as well as their human resource professionals and workers.

The SERBUK in Indonesia and the BWTUC in Cambodia honoured the day with a series of campaign actions and mass mobilisations. They asked their respective governments to prioritise workers’ health and safety and their right to safe workplaces.

Finally, Malaysia’s UFES, TEUPM, and STIEU, as well as Myanmar’s BWFM, continued OSH campaigns to raise

Europe: Continuing the call for change for worker’s health – Eurocadres

Where do we stand on this workers memorial day?
IWMD 23 EU graphicrev

April 28th is widely known as both International Workers Memorial Day and World Day for Safety and Health at Work, but recent findings show that commemoration and awareness raising are failing to alleviate the plight of workers.

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), in their report Occupational safety and health in post-pandemic workplaces, highlight how European workers are exposed to more risks now than before the pandemic. In speaking with over 27,000 workers throughout all 27 Member States, the report found that, on average in Europe, certain risks became more prominent. Exposure to time pressure/overload increased to 26.5%, psychosocial risks to 25%, while 66% of workers have experienced health problems caused or made worse by their work.

While there has been a general consensus post-COVID that workplace mental health must be spoken about more openly, participants across the EU are divided in their view whether disclosing a mental health condition would have a negative impact on their career: 16% ‘strongly agree’ and 34% ‘agree’ vs 13% who ‘strongly disagree’ and ‘32%’ who ‘disagree’. Awareness raising has clearly failed to change the culture within many European workplaces, with 27% of respondents reporting that stress, depression or anxiety has been caused by, or made worse due to their work.

Yet again we see non-binding initiatives resulting in workers suffering.

Trade unions have continually called on legislators to act in a more meaningful manner to eradicate exposure to risks in the workplace, with Europe’s mental health epidemic the latest in a line of preventable tragedies affecting workers and their families. While we move towards a vision of zero deaths at work in Europe, we match this ambition with an ominous reduction in workplace autonomy, increased surveillance of workers, the use of automation to determine workload and speed, and the introduction of digital tools without the necessary human oversight or training. These contradictory approaches are seen most clearly in our use of awareness raising campaigns to reduce the burden on workers, only for employers to escape any accountability when issues arise.

The pandemic afforded us an opportunity to re-imagine working life in Europe, and to re-orientate how we sought to balance professional and private life. It is now abundantly clear that we have failed to seize the opportunities presented to us in increased digitalisation, while the prospect of high-quality sustainable jobs for our green transition remains ambiguous at best. As the latest statistics show us, if we seek to make a real change, the window to do so is closing.

There is no denying that European workplaces have improved health and safety measures compared to the issues facing previous generations, but the rise in precarious working environments and arrangements, mental health problems caused/exacerbated by exposure to psychosocial risks, digitalisation without due diligence and automation of workloads has created a new series of problems for future generations. On both International Workers Memorial Day/the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, should we not seek to consolidate our victories, not work against them?

Rising to the occasion: Africa and Middle East unions want OHS right implemented

BWI affiliates across Africa and the Middle East (AME) celebrated this year’s International Workers’ Memorial Day together with unions from across the world under the theme ‘Make It Happen’. In an effort to celebrate and raise awareness of occupational health and safety (OHS) as a fundamental right and implement it in workplaces, affiliates were encouraged to conduct joint activities with employers and sister unions, hold thematic trainings and workshops, encourage the fulfillment of the “BWI OHS Joint Declarations,” and push further the campaign on various platforms.

True to form, unions in the region rose to the occasion. From 20 to 30 April, 21 BWI Africa and Middle East affiliates from 16 countries observed IWMD by visiting organised workplaces, conducting workplace inspections, convening thematic social dialogue meetings and OHS trainings, and hosting collaborative national conferences and seminars. Similarly, on 1 May, three trade unions demonstrated their commitment to the campaign by calling their respective governments and employers to recognise OHS as a fundamental right during national federation-led rallies and workers’ meetings in countries where they are based.

Remember the dead, fight like hell for the living

%d bloggers like this: