Since 2003, the International Labor Organization has been celebrating the World Day for Safety and Health at Work. To further raise awareness of the importance of health and safety, April 28th is also the International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers. Here are some tips to promote safety in every workplace, and more ways to help spread awareness.  

Safety and Health is a Fundamental Principle

While occupational safety has been at the forefront of labor and trade union movements for decades, last year the International Labor Organization (ILO) added “a safe and healthy working environment” to their framework of fundamental rights and principles. The World Day for Safety and Health at Work on April 28th is an important way to raise awareness, focus on prevention, and discuss practical ways to make the workplace a safer environment. 

The ILO emphasizes that safety is a shared responsibility. 

  • The government is responsible for providing laws and services that protect workers while allowing enterprises to grow, which includes policies, programs, and systems that ensure compliance 
  • Employers are responsible for creating and maintaining safe and healthy work environments, and for providing proper safety training and equipment to employees
  • Employees are responsible for working safely and protecting themselves and others, knowing their rights, and using preventive measures

Together, we can reduce workplace accidents and injuries and promote prosperity and quality of life for all. 

Safety Awareness and Emerging Risks

While most of us are highly aware of the health and safety challenges in high-risk occupations like construction, mining, health care, and industries that work with chemicals, radiation, and environmental hazards, every workplace has risks. Some safety issues that are often overlooked include:

  • Workplace stress. No industry or workplace is free from stress, and the physical and mental effects have a huge impact on the global economy. Stress has multiple effects on the worker, impairing productivity, increasing absenteeism, increasing the risk of illness and injury, and causing mental and emotional health problems. Stress is the primary cause of burnout, a condition that is only recently garnering serious study; a recent UK study estimates that burnout costs employers £33-£43 billion every year. 
  • Environmental quality at work. Even offices and administrative centers need to pay attention to the quality of the work environment. Indoor air quality is often even worse than outdoor air, due to poor ventilation, unhealthy humidity levels, VOCs, dust, cleaning supplies, and other airborne chemicals. The demands of temperature control and HVAC systems in office buildings can often reduce the quality of the air, causing headaches, fatigue, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. Unhealthy working environments may also include high levels of noise, vibrations, and uncomfortable temperatures. Every year, thousands of workers suffer from heat-related illnesses even though they are working indoors.   
  • Health and safety in the informal economy. In developed countries, the informal economy is estimated at about 15% of GDP, while in developing countries it may be as much as 30%. The informal economy encompasses a huge range of services paid in cash, including street vendors, car repairs, sex work, child care, construction projects, landscaping, hair and nail beauty services, and agriculture… around the world, there are billions of side jobs and hustles that count as work, although they don’t take place in formal, regulated workplaces and industries. Recent years have seen a huge increase in self-employment and entrepreneurship online, although the impact of these types of “gigs” is still poorly understood. The informal economy is critical for generating income for poor and poorly-educated people, and creates casual, independent, flexible income for billions of people. However, these workers are not protected by traditional institutions and have few means to protect their rights.  

This April 28th, join grapefrute in taking the time to review the safety guidelines for your workplace and your industry. Consider participating in the ILO’s live session on the health and safety rights of workers. And if you want more information on how workplace health and safety improves recruitment and retention, contact us today.