World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2014

ILO Director-General: Curbing chemical risks in the workplace

Statement | 28 April 2014
The World Day for Safety and Health at Work affirms the right of all workers to a safe and healthy working environment.

This year we are paying particular attention to health and safety issues related to the use of chemicals in production processes. Chemicals are integral components of many processes and are key ingredients of products that have come to be part and parcel of daily life. Yet chemicals may also entail significant risks for workers, workplaces, communities and the environment.

The potential dangers range from health hazards such as cancers, physical hazards like flammability, and environmental hazards including widespread contamination and toxicity to aquatic life. Many fires, explosions, and other disasters result from inadequate control of these hazards. There are still too many serious incidents which are fatal, or highly damaging to human health and the environment. They must spur us to act and to act with a sense of urgency – globally, regionally, nationally and at workplace level.

Relevant ILO standards provide guidance to governments, employers and workers and their organizations, and all stakeholders on the prevention and management of occupational hazards and risks related to the use of chemicals at work. They also advise on measures to prevent the negative impact on the environment of workplace use of chemicals. They provide the basis of a coherent global approach.

Moreover, a great deal of practical experience exists and can be drawn upon in shaping strategies for sound chemical management. Initiatives to share such experience would be one means of supporting action. From laws and regulations to risk assessment and the control and elimination of risks as well as inspection and information sharing, there are many avenues for protecting workers and supporting sustainable enterprise development through sound OSH policies and practice.

Success requires commitment and consultation. A good culture of social dialogue involving governments, employers, workers and their organizations will also help to advance OSH objectives.

Today let us focus on what each of us can do to make a positive difference in workplaces, small and large. Let us commit to decent work strategies that respect human dignity and the dignity of work by protecting the right of all workers to a safe and healthy working environment.