Occupational safety and health (OSH)

Safe working conditions are a basic human right and a fundamental part of Decent Work. The ILO estimates that over 2.3 million workers in the world die each year from work–related accidents and diseases, and four per cent of the global Gross Domestic Product are lost due to accidents and poor working conditions. For the CIS countries, about 12 million men and women become victims of occupational accidents every year.

According to the information provided by the Government, in Russia 190,000 people die each year due to work in hazardous conditions, of which 15,000 are due to occupational accidents. Furthermore, 180,000 people are forced to retire early due to work related accidents and diseases.

In the years following the break–up of the Soviet Union, the resources for occupational safety and health (OSH) at enterprises were decreased substantially due to economic problems and, in some cases, to a short–sighted search for fast profits. The need for improved working conditions and proper accident compensation has become increasingly significant. Today the new CIS republics are restructuring their national OSH systems. The reforms involve, first and foremost, modernising the OSH management systems with a new focus on eliminating work place hazards and the inclusion of workers at the enterprise in joint decision making. The pace of change differs significantly across the region, with some countries investing in the future by improving working conditions, whereas other countries are not that far.

I LO emphasizes that safe work is good business, an investment in the resources and skills of the work force that leads to improvements in quality and quantity of production. This has a direct positive impact on an enterprise’s competitiveness. We also stress that the previous practice of compensation to those who work in unsafe conditions (so called ‘hazard pay’) is outdated and counterproductive, and that preventive investment in safety increases productivity. Sustainable improvement of working conditions has to be based on cooperation between employers and workers at the enterprise – social partnership in OSH – which is a crucial part of a coherent and effective OSH management system.

We are working in cooperation with a vast network of national OSH specialists to:

  • put into practice the ILO Promotional Framework for OSH Convention, 2006 (No. 187);
  • introduce OSH management systems aimed at developing a safety culture based on GOST 12.3.230–2007 (ILO – OSH 2001);
  • raise awareness of, and commitment to, the need to enhance the safety of workers across the region, of which the 28 April – World Day for Safety and Health at Work – is the most prominent event;
  • disseminate information, through translation and publication of a large body of international and European publications, available both in print and electronic format;
  • train and build capacity in modern OSH management systems and risk assessment, by providing technical support for labour ministries, the social partners, universities, training centres and enterprises; and
  • implement demonstration programmes for further replication and stimulation of grass–root initiatives in OSH (such as Work Improvement in Neighbourhood Development (WIND) and Work Improvement at Small Enterprises (WISE) programmes).

LO Office makes OSH activities an integral part of its other efforts in the region involving the workplace, including combating child labour, forced labour, and HIV/AIDS; assisting migrant workers; and promoting small and medium sized businesses.

ILO has elaborated ILO OSH 2001, an OSH management system to assist both countries and enterprises to include OSH and social dialogue into the overall management. The ILO Guidelines provide for the establishment of a national framework for occupational safety and health management systems, preferably supported by national laws and regulations.

In March, 2007 eleven members of the CIS adopted a new standard – GOST 12.3.230–2007. It is fully in line with the ILO principles as embodied in the ILO–OSH 2001, and the ILO–OSH Framework Convention No. 187. The new GOST will bring occupational safety and health in compliance with the international standards formulated by the ILO, with due account to each country’s specific conditions and needs.

Our aim is to assist our national partners in their efforts to improve the working conditions for all men and women in the region.