The World Day for Safety and Health at Work is celebrated annually on 28 April and led by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). It raises public awareness of the importance of health and safety at work, as well as the prevention of occupational accidents. In 2019, the World Day for Safety and Health at Work is linked to the ILO’s centenary and the discussions about the future of work. These debates focus on ways of managing the challenges posed by new technology, changing demographics and climate change.
28 April is also a day when union members and campaigners celebrate Workers’ Memorial Day to commemorate those killed, maimed, injured and made ill by work. They renew a pledge to fight for the living, by raising safety concerns in the workplace and public awareness of the importance of health and safety.
Since 1957, the British Safety Council has been championing workplace health and safety around the world. The charity played an instrumental role in the campaign for compulsory seat belt law and comprehensive protection for all workers. It contributed to the creation of the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974 and, ahead of its time, helped to establish the British Wellness Council in 1979.
In February 2018, the British Safety Council published the Future risk report, which examined the risks of work automation for employees’ health, safety and wellbeing. The report has also highlighted some of the sweeping changes which are transforming the world of work. Existing research strongly indicates that there needs to be a greater emphasis on soft skills such as leadership, communication and innovation to address future risks. The report recommended that the research community further investigates the risks related to applications of nanomaterials and the impact of working with robots on workers’ mental and physical health.
Lawrence Waterman, Chairman of the British Safety Council, said; “Although Britain’s workplace health and safety record is one of the best in the world, the annual 144 fatalities and 1.4 million people suffering from work-related illnesses in this country show that a lot still needs to be done before workplaces become truly healthy and safe.
“Health and safety has often been regarded as a bureaucratic burden, whereas, in fact, a healthy and safe workplace is a basic human right, which no job, employer or regulator should ever take away. In the current climate, these rights need protecting. There is much talk of reducing our standards once Britain has left the European Union, suggesting that worker protection is worth sacrificing for trade deals. However, the politics of cutting red tape can cost lives. Unsafe and unhealthy work may create a quick profit, but it doesn’t last and simply shifts the burden of costs onto those who are hurt and the health services.
“The 7,500 deaths in the workplace worldwide are likely to be a result of treating health and safety standards as an obstacle that needs to be curtailed. That’s why the work of the ILO is so important. Its efforts have proved a simple truth again and again that well-run, healthy and safe businesses are more sustainable and profitable. The British Safety Council’s campaigning efforts like Time to Breathe campaign and research work like report Not just free fruit: wellbeing at work, are also proving this point, while helping companies to address the challenges of the changing workplace.”