Health and Safety Deemed Fundamental Rights

Image Source Marcel Crozet/ILO.org

According to a June 14, 2022, press release from the International Labour Organization, a new category for occupational health and safety has been added to its ILO Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

The Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work were originally adopted in 1998 at the 86th International Labour Conference. Each of the fundamental principles and rights are associated with the most relevant ILO Conventions. The ILO is comprised of the governments, employers, and workers of 187 Member States. Under the Declaration, “ILO Member States, regardless of their level of economic development, commit to respect and promote these principles and rights, whether or not they have ratified the relevant Conventions”.

The occupational safety and health category was established at the 110th International Labor Conference held in Geneva on Friday, June 10. This new category is now the fifth that ILO members commit to respect and promote.

The other four categories under the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work are:

  • freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.
  • the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor.
  • the effective abolition of child labor.
  • the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

 

“The adoption of the inclusion of a safe & healthy working environment in the ILO’s framework of fundamental principles & rights at work is an important step to prevent these unacceptable losses,” the ILO said on social media in reference to the number of work-related deaths that occur annually.

It is estimated that over three million people die each year from work-related issues, while millions more suffer from injuries and illnesses. The inclusion of a health and safety measure into the fundamental rights has long been sought after by trade unions globally.    

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has hailed the change as “the first extension of workers’ fundamental human rights in a quarter of a century”.

The addition of the new category is a major breakthrough and will positively affect the lives of workers all over the world.