Published: 14/06/2019

A group of United Nations Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts have called on the ILO to recognize the right to safe and healthy workplaces as one of its ‘Fundamental principles and rights at work’, a proposal contained in the draft ILO Centenary outcome document currently under discussion at the International Labour Conference.

“Millions of workers around the world suffer from diseases and disabilities due to unsafe and unhealthy conditions of work”, said the experts in a June 13th statement.   “It is estimated that approximately two million workers die prematurely each year because of an unsafe or unhealthy workplace.”

“Safe and healthy working conditions have been explicitly recognised under the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights since 1966 as a fundamental aspect of the right to just and favourable conditions of work.  However, despite ILO Convention 155, the right to safe and healthy working conditions is not among the ‘Fundamental principles and rights at work’ recognised by the ILO.”

While governments and businesses repeatedly affirm their commitment to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which include a duty and responsibility to protect the health and safety of workers, “Some employers and their representative organisations are attempting to block recognition of the right to safe and healthy working conditions as one of ILO’s fundamental rights and principles, calling into question the depth of the private sector’s commitment to respect human rights.”

“It is long overdue”, they conclude, “that the ILO recognises the right to safe and healthy working conditions as one of its fundamental principles and rights at work. The ILO’s recognition is essential to help end the exploitation of workers who are forced to choose between a paycheque and their health.  It would be a fitting tribute to the millions who have lost their lives as a result of this abhorrent choice.”