It’s World Day of safety and health at work!

Climate change poses unprecedented challenges to our planet and the safety and health of workers. The escalating frequency and severity of heatwaves, heavy precipitation, wildfires, droughts, and tropical cyclones have profound implications for workers. Workers often find themselves at the forefront of these hazards, enduring longer exposure periods and greater intensities than the general population.  The new ILO report Ensuring safety and health at work in a changing climate points out that climate change creates a ‘cocktail’ of serious health hazards impacting 70 per cent of the world’s workers. 

The impacts of climate change on Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) are severe and multifaceted. Several key factors, including excessive heat, ultraviolet (UV) radiation, extreme weather events, workplace air pollution, vector-borne diseases, and changes in agrochemical use, mean significant risks to workers. These factors result in injuries, cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions, macular degeneration and mental health issues. Moreover, the financial impact of climate change on businesses and economies cannot be underestimated, with lost productivity, business disruptions and damaged infrastructure becoming more prevalent. Addressing these challenges requires urgent action to mitigate risks and protect workers’ health and safety in the changing climate.

Recognizing the urgency of addressing these challenges, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has been actively advocating for robust responses to safeguard workers’ well-being in the face of climate change. Through setting international labour standards, codes of practice, and technical guidelines, the ILO has laid the groundwork for protecting workers from existing and emerging risks associated with climate change.

Moreover, the concept of a “Just Transition” towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies, as outlined in the 2015 Guidelines, recognizes OSH as a critical pillar of this transition. By integrating OSH considerations into environmental and social policies, it is possible to ensure that the transition is equitable and sustainable for all. 

The fundamental OSH Conventions Nos. 155 and 187 constitute a blueprint for the progressive realization of the fundamental principle and right at work (FPRW) of a safe and healthy working environment, including by protecting workers from workplace hazards and risks associated with climate change.

The  ILO Global Strategy on Occupational Safety and Health (2024-2030 underscores the importance of elevating OSH concerns related to climate change on global and national policy agendas. It emphasizes the need for effective cooperation at all levels to address these challenges effectively.

The ILO is actively engaged in initiatives linking climate change and just transition. For instance, the Vision Zero Fund, a G-7 initiative aimed at reducing accidents and diseases in supply chains, is implementing targeted activities to mitigate the impacts of climate change on workers.

To celebrate this day, several activities were organized in the Western Balkans, with a special focus on the main hazards created by factors linked to climate change, such as excessive heat, ultraviolet (UV) radiation, extreme weather events, workplace air pollution, vector-borne diseases, and changes in agrochemical use.

On April 26th, the ILO and the Central Labour Inspectorate came together in Prishtina, Kosovo to mark the World Day for Safety and Health at Work. Over 80 stakeholders convened to delve into workplace safety issues, including the impacts of climate change. Representatives from the Kosovar Alliance of Businesses and the Union of Independent Trade Unions of Kosovo shared their perspectives and proposals for fostering a secure and healthy work environment. 

In North Macedonia, on International Day of Safety and Health at Work, Gjoko Velkovski, Minister of Labour and Social Policy, representatives of the National Occupational Safety and Health Council, Employers’ and Workers’ organisations, academia and eco-activists, together with the ILO, discussed the necessary actions to ensure a safe and healthy working environment for all workers in North Macedonia. 

On the 10th of May, a conference will take place in Montenegro, organized by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, with the support of the ILO and the EU.

Let us reaffirm our commitment to building resilient workplaces that prioritize the safety and health of workers in the face of climate change! Together, through collective action and collaboration, we can create a safer, healthier, and more sustainable future for all.

 

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