The annual World Day for Safety and Health at Work has one focus this year: stopping the pandemic. On April 28, workers and employers are encouraged to consider the current global pandemic and its impact on the world of work. Even in times of crisis, employers have a duty to ensure safe and healthful working conditions, and workers have a duty to cooperate with employers.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has been observing World Day since 2003, raising awareness of how to make work safe and healthy and stressing the prevention of accidents and diseases in the workplace. This year, the ILO is focused on addressing the outbreak of infectious diseases at work, namely COVID-19, and how to actively secure a safe and healthy work environment.
Cooperation at the international and national level is critical in a pandemic, and World Day works to raise awareness on the adoption of safe practices in the workplace. It also emphasizes the role occupational safety and health (OSH) plays in a larger society; OSH protects employees, customers, family members, and others who could be affected by the workplace environment.
Employers at this time are responsible for preparing their workplace to respond to an outbreak. In addition to continuously monitoring conditions and conducting risk assessments, the ILO has developed a checklist for preventing and mitigating COVID-19 at work:
- Physical Distance: Assessing the interactions between workers, contractors, customers, and visitors; implementing social distancing practices; installing floor marking to keep workers apart.
- Hygiene: Providing disinfectant and installing additional, temporary hand sanitizing stations around the workplace, posting signs to promote a culture of handwashing and good respiratory etiquette.
- Cleaning: Regularly cleaning desks, workstations, doorknobs, phones , keyboards, and other commonly touched items with disinfecting wipes and maintaining a protocol for regularly disinfecting common areas like restrooms.
- Training & Communication: Training management and workers on how to prevent transmission; monitoring advice from local authorities
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Providing appropriate PPE such as masks and gloves for all employees, and providing training on how to use this equipment correctly.
- Response: Adapting emergency preparedness plans to address specific situations to organization is facing; drawing up and reviewing a business continuity plan that is in line with recommendations from local authorities
For those working in the front-line response, workers providing essential services, or workers in highly concentrated workspaces—risk control measures should be evaluated and adapted to the specific needs of these workers. For example, healthcare personnel and grocery store staff may experience psychosocial risks such as violence and harassment when customers or visitors do not obey social distancing and other mitigation recommendations. Occupational safety and health measures should be implemented to prevent and reduce these psychosocial risks. OSH also addresses long-term concerns for preparedness and recovery as workers experience stress, frustration, and health inequities.
How to Get Involved
Participate in World Day for Safety and Health at Work by promoting the importance of health and safety in your workplace, either physically or virtually:
- Viewing and sharing content on COVID-19 information for workplaces
- Sharing social media posts
- Use the hashtags #worldWHSday2020 or #IWMD2020 on social media
- Having a meeting about workplace health and safety at your job
- Sharing resources from ILO to raise awareness
The COVID-19 pandemic is an immediate public health emergency, and ensuring safe and healthy workplaces is more important than ever. On this year’s World Day, remember safety and health at work can save lives.
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