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ILO: More resilient occupational safety and health systems needed


ILO: More resilient occupational safety and health systems needed

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GENEVA – A report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said more social dialogue is required to ensure that occupational safety and health (OSH) procedures and protocols are effectively implemented and accepted.

The ILO report examines risk prevention and management relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, and analyses other health and safety risks associated with the changing work arrangements arising from virus control measures.

The report, which was released on World Day for Safety and Health at Work, said countries need to put in place sound and resilient OSH systems that minimise the risks for everyone in the workplace in the event of future health emergencies.

The report said this will require investment in OSH infrastructure and integrating it into overall national crisis emergency preparedness and response plans, so that workers’ safety and health is protected, and the business continuity of enterprises is supported.

“There could be no clearer demonstration of the importance of a strong, resilient, occupational safety and health environment,” ILO director-general, Guy Ryder said.

“Recovery and prevention will require better national policies, institutional and regulatory frameworks, properly integrated into crisis response frameworks.”

It outlines the critical roles played during the pandemic by occupational safety and health regulatory frameworks and institutions, compliance mechanisms, health and advisory services, data, research and training.

The report said emergency, health and social care workers have been particularly vulnerable to the risk of infection since the outbreak of the COVID-19 viral illness.

More than 7 000 health care workers have died since the outbreak of the crisis, the report said, while 136 million health and social care workers are at risk of contracting COVID-19 through work.

The report added that the pressures and risks facing health care workers during the pandemic have also taken a toll on their mental health with one in five globally having reported depression and anxiety symptoms.

The ILO report also highlighted that many other workplaces have become sources of COVID-19 outbreaks, when staff are in closed environments or spend time in close proximity with each other, including in shared accommodation or transport.

The report said that while teleworking has been essential in limiting the spread of the virus, maintaining jobs and business continuity and giving workers increased flexibility, it has also blurred the lines between work and private life.

The ILO report indicated that 65 percent of enterprises surveyed and the G20 OSH Network reported that worker morale has been difficult to sustain while teleworking.

The report said small and micro-sized enterprises have also found it hard to meet official OSH requirements because many lack the resources to adapt to the threats posed by the pandemic.

In the informal economy, many of the 1.6 billion workers, especially in developing countries, have continued working despite lockdowns, restrictions on movement and social interaction, and other measures, the report said.

This has put them at high risk of catching the virus, yet most do not have access to basic social protections, such as sick leave or sick pay. (AR)