A new report on Occupational Safety and Health, published ahead of the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28th April, has revealed some of the emerging challenges and opportunities in creating better working environments.
The new report indicated that changes in working practices, demographics, technology and the environment are creating new occupational safety and health concerns.
Growing challenges include psychosocial risks, work-related stress and non-communicable diseases, notably circulatory and respiratory diseases, and cancers.
The report added that all over the globe, more than 374 million people are either injured or became ill through work-related accidents, which called for more safety and health structures in the workplace.
It stated, “Currently, more than 374 million people are injured or made ill every year through work-related accidents. It is estimated that work days lost to OSH-related causes represent almost four per cent of global GDP, in some countries as much as six per cent.
“As well as more effective prevention for established risks, we are seeing profound changes in our places and ways of working. We need safety and health structures that reflect this, alongside a general culture of prevention that creates shared responsibility,” said Manal Azzi, ILO Technical Specialist on Occupational Safety and Health.
Looking to the future, the report highlighted four major transformative forces driving changes, and they also offered opportunities for improvements.
First, it stated that technology, such as digitisation, robotics, and nanotechology, can also affect psychosocial health and introduce new materials with unmeasured health hazards.
However, it noted that if correctly applied, they could also help reduce hazardous exposures, facilitate training and labour inspections.
Again, demographic shifts were equally important because young workers had significantly high occupational injury rates, while older workers only needed adaptive practices and equipment to work safely.
“Women – who are entering the workforce in increasing numbers – are more likely to have non-standard work arrangements and have a higher risk of musculoskeletal disorders,” it added.
Third, development and climate change gave rise to risks such as air pollution, heat stress, emerging diseases, shifting weather and temperature patterns that could bring job losses. Equally, new jobs would be created through sustainable development and the green economy.
Finally, it added that changes in the organisation of work could bring flexibility that allowed more people to enter the labour force, but might also lead to psychosocial issues (for example, insecurity, compromised privacy and rest time, or inadequate OSH and social protections) and excessive work hours.
“Approximately 36 per cent of the world’s workforce currently works excessive hours (more than 48 hours per week),” it stated.
In the light of these challenges the study proposed six areas on which policy makers and other stakeholders should focus. These include more work on anticipating new and emerging OSH risks, adopting a more multidisciplinary approach and building stronger links to public health work. Better public understanding of OSH issues was also needed. Finally, international labour standards and national legislation needed to be strengthened.
This it said, would require stronger collaboration between the governments, workers and employers.
The report revealed further that the greatest proportion of current work-related deaths – 86 per cent – come from disease. In the region of 6,500 people a day die from occupational diseases, compared to 1,000 from fatal occupational accidents.
“The greatest causes of mortality were circulatory diseases (31 per cent), work-related cancers (26 per cent) and respiratory diseases (17 per cent),” it added.
Source: Medical World Nigeria