NAIROBI, Kenya, April 29 – An estimated 2 million people around the world succumb to work-related accidents or diseases every year.

This means that there are 6000 deaths or more every single day around the world.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) indicates that there are around 340 million occupational accidents and 160 million victims of work-related illnesses annually.

Recognizing the great challenge that governments, employers, workers and societies are facing worldwide to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Day for Safety and Health at Work that was observed on Tuesday under the theme, Stop the Pandemic: Occupational Safety and Health can save lives, focused on addressing the outbreak of infectious diseases at work, in particular, the COVID-19 pandemic whose infections topped over 3 million by April 29, and over 210,000 deaths.

In Kenya, there were 14 fatalities from the pandemic with 384 infections so far.

According to Chimwemwe Chamdimba, Principal Policy Specialist for Health Programmes at the African Union Development Agency, adequate safety and health measures at work can play a crucial role in containing the spread of coronavirus, while protecting workers and society at large.

Chamdimba emphasized on the need to stimulate national tripartite dialogue on safety and health at work.

“Each stakeholder has its role to play and for instance, the government will set the regulations and policies when it comes to safety and health to work and ensure that they are adhered to. The employer is to ensure that they comply to these regulations but the most important and central part of this are the workers because they are the ones that work to ensure that there to health and safety,” she told Capital FM News on telephone from South Africa after a Webinar for Safety and Health at workplaces organised by ILO and the frican Union Development Agency-NEPAD.

“Governments, employers, workers and their organizations face enormous challenges as they try to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and protect safety and health at work. Beyond the immediate crisis, there are also concerns about resuming activity in a manner that sustains progress made in suppressing transmission,” she said.

The ILO had approved onvention number 144 and recommendation 162 on tripartite conversations when it comes to international labor standards and other ILO labor activities.

This was done to clearly articulate the need for structures and allow for important issues that touch on the safety and health at work, to be discussed amongst different stakeholders.

Regardless of the recommendations put in place by ILO, Chamdimba said some countries have not set out the structures that are required for meaningful dialogue and discussion around health and safety at work.

“One part of the equation cannot be able to provide for health and safety at work all of the three levels have to play their role. In this regard the government has to make use of these existing structures to facilitate that information is properly shared and adhered to, more so during this period when we have are Covid-19m, to ensure that people at work are healthy and safe.”

-Importance of Occupational Safety and Health at work places-

Workers have the right to a safe and healthy working environment at all levels, where governments, employers, and workers actively participate in securing a safe and healthy working environment through a system of defined rights, responsibilities, and duties and where the highest priority is accorded to the principle of prevention.

According to Chamdimba, majority of the workers are breadwinners and if they are protected at work, we then reduce poverty in the community through ensuring that the productive members of the society are protected and well provided for.

Secondly, it also helps to increase productivity at workplaces leading to economic growth and development.

“It is healthy and safe workers that ensure the economy grows in the trajectory being projected over the year,” she said.

Thirdly, by reducing incidences like diseases and accidents at work the economy is accelerated.

“We are able to protect our health system so as to utilize the resources that we have effectively.”

In Kenya, where the day was also commemorated, Labor Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui urged employers in workplaces to continue observing a safe and healthy environment for their employees as the country continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

In his message during this year’s world day for safety and health at work, Chelugui underscored the need for employers to be critical about the safety of their employees amid the rising cases of infections in the country.

“Our workers in the public and private sectors hold the future of our country’s economy. Without sound safety and health systems in place, none of the sectors can thrive,” he said, and emphasized that all the precautionary measures provided by the government should be observed in workplaces to break the cycle of infections.

The government has been categorical that the observance of social distancing is key in work places and has urged employers to adopt a work-from-home culture to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Chelugui has in particular asked employers to allow absenteeism when a worker shows symptoms of the virus or when one is caring for an individual who has or is suspected to have the symptoms.

Chelugui also pleaded with employers to develop infection control plans and policies and assess the risk of exposure with respect to every work activity and put the necessary mitigation measures.

He at the same time announced that the construction of the National Occupational Safety and Health Institute which aims at enhancing the training of workers in the critical area of safety and health is almost complete.

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Worldwide, ILO estimates that there are around 340 million occupational accidents and 160 million victims of work-related illnesses annually.

Some of the major findings in the ILO’s latest statistical data on occupational accidents and diseases, and work-related deaths on a world-wide level include.

Diseases related to work causes the most deaths among workers, new working conditions, like higher workloads, downsizing, poor conditions associated with migration for work and jobs in the informal economy

Hazardous substances alone are estimated to cause 651,279 deaths a year. The construction industry has a disproportionately high rate of recorded accidents. New technologies and production processes like nanotechnology, biotechnology

Younger and older workers are particularly vulnerable. The ageing population in developed countries means that an increasing number of older persons are working and need special consideration.

The annual World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April promotes the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally. It is an awareness-raising campaign intended to focus international attention on the magnitude of the problem and on how promoting and creating a safety and health culture can help reduce the number of work-related deaths and injuries.

Full interview can be read here: