In a report presented this week at the XVIth World Congress on Occupational Safety and Health at Work, being held in Vienna, Austria, the ILO said industrialized countries need to focus on psychosocial factors linked to poor workplace relations and management, the mental and physical consequences of repetitive, highly technical tasks and information on handling new technologies and substances, including chemicals. In those countries that are still industrializing, priority should be given to improving safety and health practices in primary industries such as farming, fishing and logging, preventing industrial accidents, including fires and exposure to hazardous substances and preventing traditional accidents and diseases, even in informal workshops and home-based industries.
In countries at all levels of development, a large proportion of the deaths and injuries by workers can be attributed to inadequate safety and health information, according to the report. A number of ILO programs, some developed in conjunction with the World Health Organization and the United Nations Development Programme, aim to improve safety and health information and networking.
These include the International Programme on Chemical Safety, which develops, translates and disseminates clear and standardized information on the properties of chemical substances in the workplace. The ILO also undertakes extensive research and publishes a large number of publications, including the 4,000-page ILO Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety. ILO activities in developing countries range from chemical safety programs for small coal mines in China, agro-chemical safety initiatives in Central America and occupational safety information campaigns throughout Africa. In Bulgaria and other central and eastern European countries, and in Viet Nam, modern labor inspection systems have been put in place.
The ILO is lobbying for key occupational safety and health conventions, such as the framework of Convention No. 155 on occupational safety and No.161 on occupational health services, to be considered as minimum standards.