Health promotion replacing safety to become major concern for int'l labor experts

April 30, 2015 6:56 am 

GENEVA, April 29 — Health promotion has replaced the traditional safety issues and accidents to become the most important topic in terms of protecting the rights of workers, international labor officials and experts said during a high-level panel discussion held on Tuesday.

According to International Social Security Association (ISSA) Secretary General Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, even in a workplace a person should not be considered only as a working force but should also be treated as a human being.

"A changing work nexus, globalisation, an ageing workforce and the move from safety to health trends have catalysed a paradigmatic shift in recent years, and a three dimensional methodology which is based on risk prevention, health promotion through check-ups and interventions and return to work incentives should be called for," he said.

Konkolewsky told Xinhua that accidents are but the tip of the iceberg, as 85 percent of deaths are health-related.

"As though there has been an overall reduction of traditional safety accidents, work-related illnesses are on the rise," he said.

Official figures show that more than 313 million workers suffer non-fatal occupational injuries each year, equating to 860,000 people being injured on the job every day, and 6,400 people die on a daily basis from work-related incidents, which amounts to 2.3 million fatalities a year.

The economic losses are also tangible, as an estimated 4 percent of global GDP is lost annually due to occupational injuries and deaths, this amounts to US$ 2.8 trillion lost each year.

According to Konkolewsky, some countries, including China, face both occupational safety and health hazards, specifically in sectors such as construction, coal mining and production.

"There is a strong commitment to address these issues in china and ISSA is collaborating with local authorities to address the risks experienced by the workforce," he said, adding that it is crucial that "all levels of societies learn their rights and obligations, especially in emerging economies."

Konkolewsky also iterated that a focus on vulnerable workers such as migrants and the informal workforce is required, and that special attention should be granted to high risk sectors such as construction, agriculture, mining and production, since occupational safety and health has been defined as a fundamental human right since the 2008 Seoul Declaration on Safety and Health at work.

"The prevention culture is not a cost, but an investment," he added.

"The complexity of prevention is growing as unified and holistic approaches which focus on both the individual and the global prevention culture are needed," he said.

According to him, for every dollar per employee per year invested by companies in workplace prevention, there is a 2.20 dollars return, which correlates ILO Director-General Guy Ryder's statement that "prevention is possible, it is necessary and it pays."

On the occasion of April 28 world day for safety and health at work, the International Labor Organization (ILO) also highlighted the importance of prevention in the workplace on Tuesday's panel discussion.

"Though the creation of a safe and healthy work environment for everybody remains a challenge, the protection of workers has been a core ILO mandate since its inception in 1919," ILO Deputy Director-General for Policy Sandra Polaski reiterated. (PNA/Xinhua)



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