• Lee Calver
  • 28 April 2015

Build a culture of prevention on Occupational Safety and Health on World Day for Safety and Health at Work

The World Day for Safety and Health at Work is an annual international campaign to promote safe, healthy and decent work. It was held on 28 April and has been observed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) since 2003.

28 April has also long been associated with the world’s trade union movement’s commemoration of the victims of occupational accidents and diseases.

Every year some two million men and women lose their lives through accidents and diseases linked to their work. In addition, there are 270 million occupational accidents and 160 million occupational diseases each year, incurring US$ 2.8 trillion in costs for lost working time and expenses for treatment, compensation and rehabilitation. Fatalities, accidents and illness at work are highly preventable and we have an obligation to act.

A national occupational safety and health culture is one in which the right to a safe and healthy working environment is respected at all levels, where Governments, employers and workers actively participate in securing a safe and healthy working environment through a system of defined rights, responsibilities and duties, and where the highest priority is accorded to the principle of prevention.

This year, the ILO has created a SafeDay website with new and useful information including the role of each stakeholder, more detailed information on key aspects and trends on OSH, as well as a campaign kit which includes a PPT presentation with notes, the poster and the brochure.

Yesterday, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) held its Healthy Workplaces Good Practice Awards ceremony in Riga, Latvia. The awards demonstrated the benefits of adopting good occupational safety and health practices and highlighted leading examples of active management of stress and psychosocial risks in the workplace. 

The awards recognise innovative and outstanding examples of good practice in relation to EU-OSHA’s Healthy Workplaces Manage Stress campaign and were presented by the Latvian Minister of Welfare, Uldis Augulis and EU-OSHA Director, Christa Sedlatschek.

The Minister of Welfare of Latvia, Uldis Augulis, noted that many organisations incorrectly consider psychosocial risks to be a taboo subject:

“In about one-third of European establishments, a reluctance to talk openly about psychosocial risks and stress appears to be the main difficulty in addressing these issues. At present, only 20% of establishments in Latvia have prevention plans in place, and so we hope the awards will increase awareness and inspire for better psychosocial working conditions in our country.”

Director of EU-OSHA, Christa Sedlatschek, emphasised the importance of tackling stress in the workplace:

Psychosocial risk factors are often perceived as more challenging to deal with than other issues. But these risks can be dealt with using the same principles as any other occupational safety and health issue, and that is what the Healthy Workplaces Good Practice Awards aim to show. For example, Siemens’ multifaceted Life in Balance programme improved the psychosocial working environment of the company in Belgium, and the Spanish Hotel Colón, with only 78 employees, implemented a participative psychosocial risk prevention procedure, improving both work organisation and employees’ well-being.”

Representatives from winning organisations, such as Daimler (Germany), Schuberg Philis (Netherlands) and Zavarovalnica Triglav (Slovenia), shared their experiences in successfully managing stress and psychosocial risks at work.

However, much remains to be done. EU-OSHA’s second European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER-2) found that one in five establishments in Europe that have to deal with difficult customers or time pressure indicate they do not have the information or tools they need to deal with these risks. The survey also found that only around one-third of establishments have an action plan in place to prevent work-related stress. The Good Practice Awards should help highlight to others that workplace psychosocial risks can be prevented. All awarded and commended examples are presented in the Good Practice Awards booklet.