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World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2021: Ensuring Workers’ Safety and Health amidst Pandemic

Written by Safira Tafani Cholisi, Content Writer Intern Project Child Indonesia

Have you ever heard of the term Occupational Safety and Health (OSH)? As specified in the Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 (No. 187), it aims to build a system that can guarantee the safety and health of workers in the workplace. OSH risks may present themselves in a range of forms, but a set of new emerging risks are brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With the pandemic, the workplace becomes a new hotspot for possible virus transmissions. Mitigation measures to address this threat are altering the common methods and practices of workers. One of them is the transition to a work-from-home policy that aims to reduce the number of workers present on-site while maintaining work productivity through long-distance communication and coordination.

This transition is of course without its own challenges. Quarantine and work-from-home policies have observably seen new consequences of its implementation such as psychosocial risks and violence. Working from home without the familiarity of a workplace setting and its defining characteristics like work desk and colleagues can potentially lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. Domestic violence has also reportedly increased during the pandemic quarantine as one of the manifestations of psychosocial stress faced by workers.

OSH risks amidst the pandemic can be even more threatening for workers in developing countries. 80% of workers in developing countries are estimated to be exposed to global occupational hazards (Khan, 2013). With the prevalence of the informal economy sector, many do not have access to secure and guaranteed social safety nets, including healthcare. A number of individuals had to continue working in risky environments as they had no other options to make a living. At the same time, OSH framework development in developing countries continues to be ignored in policymaking (Nuwayhid, 2004).

The International Labour Organization (ILO) first initiated the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on April 28, 2003 to highlight the problems of occupational accidents and diseases as well as to promote its prevention. This year’s World Day for Safety and Health at Work adopts the title of “Anticipate, Prepare and Respond to Crises” and “Invest Now in Resilient Occupational Safety and Health Systems”, which calls for an immediate and proper response to OSH risks caused by the pandemic (World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2021, 2021).

As individuals, we can contribute to the prevention of OSH risks by being responsible to our own roles in the workplace. We can remind our colleagues, friends and family, and our surrounding environment to work safely and know one’s work rights. We can also contribute to movements and campaigns that call out and challenge unsafe and inhumane practices in workplaces. Additionally, we can exercise our right as a citizen to demand our government to provide policy and legal framework that can ensure the safety and health of workers. 

As the pandemic continues to loom over, we can continue to collaborate with one another to do good and spread kindness as much as we can.

References

Khan, M., 2013. Developing a Safety Culture in Developing Countries. In: International Conference on Safety, Construction Engineering and Project Management (ICSCEPM 2013). [online] Islamabad. Available at: <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/276488208_Developing_a_Safety_Culture_in_Developing_Countries> [Accessed 27 April 2021].

Nuwayhid, I., 2004. Occupational Health Research in Developing Countries: A Partner for Social Justice. American Journal of Public Health, 94(11), pp.1916-1921.
International Labour Organization (ILO). 2021. World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2021. [online] Available at: <https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/safety-and-health-at-work/events-training/events-meetings/safeday2021/lang–en/index.htm> [Accessed 27 April 2021].