Safety and Health Added to International Labour Organization’s Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work 
international labour conference
Renate Hornung-Draus, delegate of Germany at 110th session of the International Labour Conference

The principle of a safe and healthy working environment has been adopted to be included in the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work in a landmark decision during the annual International Labour Conference (ILC).

The International Labour Conference, held 27 May – 11 June, brings together delegates from ILO member states that represent governments, workers and employers to establish and adopt international labour standards.

Delegates adopted the measure at the Conference’s plenary sitting on Friday 10 June. 

Until now, there have been four categories of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work:

  • Freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
  • Elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour;
  • Effective abolition of child labour;
  • Elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

The decision by the Conference means that Occupational Safety and Health will become the fifth category, with delegates celebrating the landmark addition. 

“The solid confirmation of a safe and healthy working environment by including it as a fifth pillar into the 1998 declaration reconfirms that all ILO members need to step up their work on the realisation of a safe and healthy working environment,” said Renate Hornung-Draus, delegate of Germany, speaking at the plenary on Friday.

“Ever since the adoption of the ILO Constitution in 1990, the pursuit of the protection of the life and health of workers has featured prominently in the work of ILO,” said Amos Kuje, delegate of Nigeria. 

“The ILO and its members will be in a better place to pursue it with greater legal effectiveness in the future. The life, health, and well-being of millions upon millions of workers depends on this [resolution]. We have to rise to the challenge.”

The ILO had published a joint report with the World Health Organization last September 2021 on work-related burden of disease, finding that diseases associated with long working hours and workplace injuries accounted for the top two causes of worker deaths. This report, the first global comparative risk assessment on work-related burden of disease, led to calls from both organizations to use the findings of the report to shape policies and practices that created healthier and safer work environments.

Creating inclusivity at work for vulnerable populations a focus of the International Labour Conference 

Women on their way to work in Raipur, India.

Earlier that day, the ILC held its high-level World of Work Summit tackling multiple global crises and promoting human-centered recovery and resilience, with specific focus on an urgent need to address the labour and social consequences of current crises, and creating an inclusive environment, particularly for vulnerable populations. 

“While the picture is bleak and the outlook uncertain, we must not lose sight of our vision for a better future of work. The hopes and dreams of millions depend on us. We cannot let them down. Together, we must deliver on our promise of a better, fairer, more inclusive, future for all,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder at the opening of the Summit. 

“We must renew our efforts to create decent work opportunities, especially for the most vulnerable groups,” he added.

President Wavel Ramkalawan of Seychelles and President Xiomara Castro of Honduras called for better work protections for women and children. “Our message should be one of hope,” said Ramkalawan. “Our actions and policies should present hope for our people, while we fight the scourges of corruption, exploitation and injustice,” 

Image Credits: ILO, Prem Kumar Marni/Flickr.

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