Press Release

Observing World Day for Safety and Health at Work in the Pacific - 28th April 2018

Youth safety and health at work: Early education equals early protection

Press release | Suva, Fiji | 26 April 2018
Suva, (ILO NEWS) In the Pacific region, more people than anywhere else start working from a young age. As youth, many of them often work in hazardous or exploitative jobs to earn income for their families. Some of this work also constitutes child labour. This year, the theme of World Day for Safety and Health at Work is on improving the working conditions of young workers as well as bringing an end to child labour.

The campaign focuses on what needs to be done to accelerate action to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 8.8 - Safe and secure working environments for all workers by 2030 and SDG target 8.7 to end all forms of child labour by 2025. Achieving these goals for the benefit of the next generation of the global workforce requires a concerted and integrated approach to eliminating child labour and promoting a culture of prevention on Occupational Safety and Health (OSH).

Many young workers in the Pacific are in the informal economy and are engaged in agricultural, industrial and maritime work. These workplaces tend to be out of the reach of OSH laws and are otherwise difficult to inspect. In addition, workers frequently lack an understanding of the importance of OSH.

Poor working conditions and a lack of OSH training often translates to higher rates of injury amongst workers who would otherwise have had a long working career ahead of them. They are also at risk of contracting occupational diseases with harmful long-term effects. For example, exposure to hazardous agents such as asbestos, pesticides and other chemicals can ultimately lead to serious diseases and potentially death.

Mr. Donglin Li, Director ILO Office for Pacific Island Countries said “Safety and health at work is at the core of the work of the ILO and has been important for the work of the organisation since its foundation in 1919. Occupational safety and health is an integral part of the ILO Decent Work agenda. If a job is well-paid but unsafe, it is not decent work. If a job is done freely but exposes the worker to health hazards, it is not decent work, if the contract of employment is fair but the work impairs the workers’ health and wellbeing, it is not decent work. “

“Decent Work must be Safe Work. This is why the ILO and its constituents (government, workers and employers’ organizations) must be leaders in promoting safety and health at work, consolidating what has been achieved, as well as sharing the principles of good practice on OSH in all sectors and workplaces.”

The ILO’s Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155) provides a suitable framework supporting a safety and health culture at work. The ILO Guidelines on Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems (ILO-OSH 2001) provide a powerful tool for developing a sustainable safety and health culture at the enterprise level and mechanisms for the continual improvement of the work environment. Providing young workers with decent and safe employment opportunities is indispensable for future social and economic development. Governments, employers and workers need to build, implement and continuously strengthen a culture of prevention. Indeed, many governments are currently engaging in regular tripartite dialogues to set standards and develop national OSH policies.

While efforts to improve the current state of workplaces are critical, there must also be efforts to educate future generations in OSH. By one estimate, 65% of children in primary school today will work in jobs that currently do not exist. In order to ensure that these jobs do not jeopardize the health and safety of future generations, it is crucial that children are educated from a young age.

Educating young people in the importance of OSH is necessary for a safe future of work. We must do all we can to ensure that young people are aware of, and protected by, OSH principles so that they too are given the chance to work in a safe and healthy workplace.