Global: “Work should support life – not endanger it”, says IOSH

Two annual events taking place on 28 April serve as a reminder of the importance of the occupational safety and health profession in protecting workers.

On International Workers’ Memorial Day, organised by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), we remember those who have lost their lives or suffered life-changing injuries or illness at work.

These tragedies could have been prevented. This is why 28 April also marks World Day for Safety and Health at Work, which raises awareness of actions to prevent injury and death at work. It is an initiative of the International Labour Organization, which this year is focusing on strategies to strengthen national occupational safety and health systems to build resilience, to face crises now and in the future. IOSH’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for a systematic approach to protecting workers: preparedness is the key to prevention.

Jimmy Quinn, President of IOSH, said: “Our members – occupational safety and health professionals – have had a crucial role in responding to the pandemic. They’ve helped to ensure that safe practices and procedures have been introduced and implemented in the workplace to protect workers, customers and suppliers. If ever there was a time for our members to demonstrate the value of their knowledge, skills and experience, it has been now. IOSH has supported them by producing and sharing up-to-date guidance, continuing to be a trusted and authoritative source of information throughout the pandemic.

“Yet we also remember that even before the pandemic 2.78 million people were dying each year from work-related illness and injury. These deaths are even more tragic because they are preventable.”

The following figures from the ITUC show the scale of the challenges in protecting people at work:

  • every day 7,600 workers die of work accidents or disease
  • every minute 730 people are poisoned by pesticides
  • worldwide, one health worker dies from Covid-19 every 30 minutes.

Jimmy added: “These shocking facts remind us of the need to redouble our efforts with governments, business and labour to bring about radical change in how work is organised. Work should support life. It should not do the opposite – endanger life. This is the overarching message from IOSH on this day of remembrance and motivation to protect workers around the world.

“IOSH has always advocated that the best approach is prevention first. Anticipating and preparing for risks requires investment in and good management of resilient occupational safety and health systems. It also requires a competent, trained and experienced occupational safety and health profession.”

IOSH has been added to the register of participants in the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, aligning our strategy to universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. We are committed to being an exemplar of sustainability in supporting the health, safety and wellbeing of all workers.

IOSH is encouraging members and others to observe a minute’s silence at 11am BST on 28 April to pay tribute to those who have died or suffered life-changing injuries or illness at work.