Enhancing the role and engagement of the world of work actors in international chemicals management

The sound management of chemicals and waste is directly linked to the world of work. Workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals throughout global supply chains: from production, to handling, to storage, to transport, and to disposal of waste chemicals. Every year, around 1 million workers die from exposure to hazardous substances, including dusts, vapours and fumes. This is not counting those living with chronic diseases. The global production increase of chemicals will mean even more exposures for workers in the future.

In response to growing international concern over chemical safety, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) was developed in 2006, to serve as a comprehensive policy framework to promote chemical safety around the world. SAICM’s overall objective is the achievement of the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle so that by 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize adverse impacts on the environment and human health. In 2006, the ILO Governing Body approved SAICM and endorsed follow-up action of most relevance to the ILO, in consultation with constituents at country, regional and international levels.

Plenary discussions during the intersessional process meeting (IP3) of SAICM
When it became clear that SAICM would not meet its objective by 2020, a follow-up process to carry on the mandate was established, known as SAICM “Beyond 2020”. One of the key objectives of a revitalized strategy for Beyond 2020 is increased multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder engagement in order to ensure that the new platform will be of interest to, and useful for, the work of the different ministries as well as a variety of stakeholders.

To this end,the ILO is implementing the project Enhancing the role and engagement of the world of work actors in SAICM Beyond 2020, funded by the German Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

The overarching goal of the project is to enhance the role and engagement of the labour sector and its world of work stakeholders, including ministries of labour, employer and worker organisations, as well as occupational safety and health institutes in Beyond 2020. To meet this objective, the ILO is leading a series of mutually reinforcing activities to enhance the multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder nature of the Beyond 2020 process. The three key action areas with related outputs are as follows:
1. To support the promotion and ratification of ILO Conventions, and related labour standards, ILO Codes of Practice and tools on chemical safety, the project will develop an in-depth legal review of all chemical related instruments, as well as promotional materials.
2. To define priorities, responsible partners and a timeline of action for the engagement of world of work actors in Beyond 2020, the project will conduct a comprehensive baseline survey of global trends for workers’ exposures to chemicals, which will be used as a foundation towards the development of an ILO Chemicals Action Plan.
3. To mobilise the labour sector, the project will support the participation of ILO constituents in key discussions and planning meetings of Beyond 2020.