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Occupational safety and health

Occupational safety and health (OSH) deals with all aspects of health and safety in the workplace. Its goal is to prevent the occurrence of occupational accidents and diseases. A safe and healthy working environment is one where risks are eliminated or when all reasonably practicable actions have been taken to reduce risks to an acceptable level and where prevention has been integrated as part of the organizations culture.

Since its creation the ILO has been promoting occupational safety and health, and over the years has adopted about 40 Conventions and Recommendations specifically dealing with these issues.

Employers have to comply with OSH laws and regulations. But management of occupational safety and health is not only a question of legal compliance. There is a business case for safety and health at work. Good OSH performance can help ensure business continuity, preventing high levels of absence and avoiding losses of skilled workers. It can raise productivity and competitiveness as well as lead to reductions of insurance premiums. Additionally, health and safety investments can be justified on strategic grounds such as maintaining strong reputation to attract talent and preferred supply chain relationships. Finally, managing OSH issues can be an opportunity to improve workplace cooperation and dialogue, boosting employee engagement.

To manage OSH efficiently companies focus on building a safety culture within the organisation, employing risk management and control principles, aligning OSH management systems with other business operations, and involving workers in OSH management issues.

At the same time, employers are not the only ones involved in securing safety and health in the workplace. Workers and their representatives should cooperate with employers by taking reasonable care of their own safety, complying with the instructions given regarding safety and health, using protective equipment correctly and reporting any hazardous conditions or events and accidents. To promote compliance and good OSH performance, it is also key that employers are provided with support and guidance from relevant authorities. This is emphasised in the ILO Conventions 155 and 187. Micro and SMEs in particular may need help in complying with legal obligations and in developing OSH management processes.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, occupational safety and health takes on even greater importance. Employers have an important role to play in preventing the spread of the virus in the workplaces, by implementing appropriate control measures. There is also need for continuity planning to address the potential impacts of COVID-19 on workplaces and workforce performance.

ACT/EMP supports employers and business organisations in setting up OSH services such as trainings, information and advice, as well as in engaging in effective advocacy activities in the area of OSH.