No one who wakes up in the morning dreams or imagines that they will come home with an illness or injury. Or that they won’t make it home. Everyone has the fundamental right to work in a safe and healthy environment. From this starting point, the International Labor Organization (ILO) launched World Day in 2003 with a focus on the avoidance of accidents and diseases at work.

World Day for Safety and Health at Work

World Day for Safety and Health at Work is celebrated annually on the 28th of April to highlight, bring into focus, and promote the circumvention of diseases and occupational accidents in the workplace. This year’s theme, ‘A safe and healthy working environment is a fundamental principle and right at work’, helps us recognise and remember the importance of health and safety at work to prevent workplace injuries and fatalities.

This global awareness campaign aims to draw the world’s attention to the big problems experienced in the workplace. It also hopes to emphasise how advancing a safe and healthy workplace culture can reduce the number of injuries and deaths that do occur at the workplace.

The burden of workplace

Poor working conditions aren’t just about bad PR or how your organisation looks on social media. It’s about real life. Real people. It’s about assessing the physical and mental risks that workers face when they clock in and putting measures in place to combat these.  

Unsafe working conditions have life-altering effects on the people affected. According to the ILO, there are 340 million occupational accidents and 160 million individuals who fall victim to work-related diseases annually. They estimate that every year, 2.3 million experience workplace-related fatalities around the world. Most worker fatalities are caused by occupational diseases. They add that hazardous substances alone result in an estimated 651,279 fatalities annually.

The consequences of illness and injuries are extended absences from work, financial expenses around medical bills, therapy and recovery and time away from work costs the family, company, and at a larger scale, the global GDP.

Despite the progress being made in these areas, these numbers still call for focus and special consideration to continue being given. This responsibility falls on all of us to ensure we can all return to our homes at the end of the workday in the same manner we left.

Who’s responsible for safety and health at work?

Sometimes we can be complacent in matters of health and safety. Be it shirking off the responsibility to our doctors, leaving it for those in the field, or saying everyone else must take responsibility. But workplace health and safety falls on three parties to make it work.

  • Individuals: We are individually responsible for our health and safety. This means not coming to work inebriated, making sure you know how to operate all machinery you work with, wearing the correct PPE (personal protective equipment and attire), leaving your workstation in a manner that won’t endanger your colleagues and more.
  • Employees: As colleagues, we are duty-bound to ensure we don’t put our team in any danger by being irresponsible, overlooking, or not reporting dangers or hazards we see while we work.
  • Employers: The third contributor to ensuring workplace health and safety falls on the employer to provide the environment, tools, knowledge, and resources to ensure the environment does not infringe on the rights and principles every individual is legally entitled to.
  • Governments: Governments and organisations need to introduce legislation and national policies to enforce corporations to change systems to provide safe and healthy environments for their staff.

Creating a prevention culture

In as much as we are responsible for best practices at work in whatever capacity we hold, this doesn’t just happen without intention.

  • Organisations need to ensure that they remain compliant with the necessary legal obligations to create a safe and healthy working environment.
  • However, both employees and employers should encourage good practices and have a dialogue about health and safety about rules, constraints, rules, responsibilities, and conditions necessary to create the environment.
  • Make health and safety a priority.
  • Raise awareness and ensure everyone understands the concept of health and safety, the risks, hazards, and measures to control workplace injuries.

How to get involved

Workplace health and safety is everyone’s responsibility. Here are a few ways you can get involved in celebrating World Health and Safety Day.

  • Educate yourself on your company’s health and safety policies and procedures.
  • Share and post your awareness and knowledge on your social media platforms using the hashtags #WorldWHSDay2023 #SafeDay2023 #IWMD2023.
  • Enrol for a course or two on occupational health and safety.
  • As an employer: host sessions and workshops, provide resources, make sure your policies are up to date, and invite an occupational health and safety (OHS) expert to give talks to your employees.
  • Check your mental health. Take our free mental well-being test below to assess and help you develop a happier, healthier, and more productive life tomorrow.

And remember, in as much as World Work Health and Safety Day is celebrated on 28th April, it’s a day to be remembered and practised every day of the year.

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