The annual World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April promotes the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally. It is an awareness-raising campaign intended to focus international attention on the magnitude of the problem and on how promoting and creating a safety and health culture can help reduce the number of work-related deaths and injuries.
The day provides an opportunity to reflect on how to prevent occupational deaths, injuries, diseases and illnesses. It is also a day to remember those who have died from a work-related injury or illness.
Around 2.9 million workers die every year due to occupational accidents and diseases and at least 402 million people suffer from non-fatal occupational injuries.
The 2022 World Day for Safety and Health at Work will explore the topic of participation and social dialogue in creating a positive safety and health culture.
Social dialogue refers to all types of negotiation and consultation, or simply the exchange of information between, representatives of Governments, employers, and workers on issues of common interest relating to economic and social policy. It is a key tool in the governance of work, for the promotion of sustainable economic growth and social justice.
Leadership and commitment to Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) by employers and senior management are crucial to creating a positive OSH culture. In fact, the perception of senior managers’ attitudes and behaviours in relation to OSH will form the basis for the OSH behaviour of workers, and thus the OSH performance of the enterprise.
Since emerging as a global crisis in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has had profound impacts everywhere. The pandemic has touched nearly every aspect of the world of work, from the risk of transmission of the virus in workplaces, OSH risks that have emerged as a result of measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. Shifts to new forms of working arrangements, such as the widespread reliance on teleworking, have, for example, presented many opportunities for workers but also posed potential OSH risks, including psychosocial risks and violence in particular.
Seven core values have been identified as important for the development of a positive OSH culture:
- Social involvement
- Resilience and flexibility
- Development and growth
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to work from home has been posing considerable challenges to ensure safe and healthy working conditions, for which both employers and workers were not always prepared physically, mentally, or infrastructure-wise. According to a recent survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 71% of employers were struggling to adjust to remote work; 65% of employers stated that maintaining employee morale had been a challenge; and more than one third of employers were facing difficulties with company culture, employee productivity and annual leave regulation. A survey of 1,000 workers in the United States found that four out of five workers found it difficult to disconnect in the evening after work, with 45% saying that they felt their mental health was worse while teleworking.
Even though it may be difficult for employers to carry out traditional risk assessments at a worker’s home, it remains the employers’ responsibility to check that:
- work can be safely performed from home, this may imply adjustments to the tasks, if needed. workers have the right equipment and tools to work safely at home, including the required protective or safety equipment, where applicable;
- workers have the relevant information, instruction, supervision and training, including measures to deal with emergencies;
- reasonable accommodations are made for workers with disabilities in relation to the work they are required to perform from home;
- arrangements are made to protect workers’ physical and mental health and well-being.
In this context, the cooperation between employers and people who are working from home is of clear importance. Workers should be able to regularly communicate their concerns and the challenges experienced with the newly adopted policies and guidelines to their employers.
In conclusion, building a culture of prevention on OSH at the workplace level - based on a sound OSH management system capable of facing new challenges and emergencies - requires the full engagement and participation of both employers and workers. Appropriate and sustainable OSH measures can only be successfully designed and implemented through dialogue based on mutual trust and co-operation.