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Safety and health at work

Domestic workers are exposed to a variety of occupational safety and health risks, including chemical, ergonomic, physical, psychosocial and biological hazards. When carrying out cleaning tasks, domestic workers are typically exposed to chemical hazards causing immediate effects such as intoxication and allergies or long-term effects such as cancer. The physical demands of their work increase their exposure to ergonomic hazards stemming from tasks such as lifting, moving and handling heavy loads. Psychosocial risks, including violence and harassment, are pervasive in the sector. The impact of these risks is amplified when domestic workers are not covered by OSH and social security laws, which is the case for a large majority of domestic workers working in the informal economy.

Article 13 of Convention No. 189 states that “every domestic worker has the right to a safe and healthy working environment. Each Member shall take, in accordance with national laws, regulations and practice, effective measures, with due regard for the specific characteristics of domestic work, to ensure the occupational safety and health of domestic workers.” To help implement this provision, the ILO has worked to develop OSH guides and guidelines, including in light of COVID-19.

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