Over 2 million fatalities per year happen at work, according to the International Labour Organization. Within the health and safety climate of the 2020s, however, that number is likely to rise. The vast majority of occupations do not have the luxury of a teleworking option, increasing the likelihood of viral infection. Individuals who go to workplaces that employ skeletal workforces are exposed to a higher probability of injury, as they have to take on a larger workload and have fewer people to assist them in the event of an accident. It is because of these reasons that the ILO saw fit to conduct a report on the many challenges faced by businesses the world over. Released on the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, the report entitled “Anticipate, prepare and respond to crises. Invest now in resilient OSH systems” hopes to urge the nations of the world to make the right choices for their citizens.
ILO Director-General urges nations to learn from their mistakes
In the words of Guy Ryder, the ILO’s Director-General, the coronavirus pandemic has been the clearest demonstration of how important it is to develop a resilient workplace health and safety environment. He went on to say that recovery from the economic impact, and eventually preventing such a thing from happening again, will require much more attention from the world’s governments. Crisis response systems must be strengthened, regulations redoubled, and national policies made more stringent.
This is exactly what the recent ILO report aimed to examine. Through the course of the past year, the ILO surveyed risk prevention and management measures to combat the new health risks that workers face. It also marked out how countries’ health institutions can regulate, advise, and ensure compliance to proper standards. Pointers on where to conduct research, development, and training specific to their needs were also created based on the report’s findings.
Common threads among countries
One of the main points touched upon by the report was the importance of teleworking in preserving employee health and safety. Aside from making physical safety hazards largely irrelevant, it also made workers more flexible and allowed the business to continue despite the circumstances. However, the largest disadvantage to teleworking was the difficulty in maintaining employee morale. According to the report, 65 percent of companies observed by the ILO struggled with this.
For those in industries wherein teleworking is inapplicable, however, conditions have been highly undesirable. Among them, the healthcare sector was arguably hit the hardest, with over 17,000 individuals worldwide perishing since the outbreak, according to Amnesty International. The toll has also been high at workplaces where staff is forced to share accommodations or transport, as well as work in confined spaces. The ILO report has noted that small businesses were particularly overburdened with health and safety requirements due to their limited resources. Hence, we can expect specific regulations and guidelines to be crafted for such establishments. Larger businesses have no such excuse, however. Employees working for sizable corporations are best advised to get into contact with lawyers as soon as possible. Having a legal team close at hand will serve as a strong contingency in the event that one’s employers have been found to be endangering their staff’s health and safety.
Tentative measures advised by the ILO
For now, the ILO’s International Labour Standards still stand to provide the world’s nations with basic guidelines to respond to the challenges of the day. The report points to this as a preliminary measure, before country-specific guidelines and countermeasures can be formulated. Aside from this, the ILO also highly emphasizes the importance of keeping channels of dialogue open between the government and private sector. According to them, this is the primary way by which governments can ensure that any protocols and procedures will be adopted by their constituents.
However comprehensive, the standards that the ILO will be able to come up with will ultimately be strongly worded suggestions. It is up to the world’s governments to decide whether to heed them. Likewise, it is up to the citizens to hold their governments to the international standard.