Countries Around the Globe Celebrate Workers Memorial Day

April 28, 2009
The World Day for Safety and Health at Work, as Workers Memorial Day is known in the international community, will be recognized in multiple countries and hundreds of localities on all continents this year with a host of events aimed at raising awareness about what International Labour Organization (ILO) Director-General Juan Somavia called the "human tragedy" of unsafe work.

The ILO Programme on Safety and Health at Work (SafeWork) has estimated that nearly 1 million workers suffer a workplace accident and more than 5,500 workers die each day due to accidents or disease from their work.

"Unsafe work is a human tragedy," Somavia said. "Much of this tragedy involving millions of workers each year plays out unseen and unheard, never making the headlines. Yet so much can be prevented."

The World Day events, ranging from the declaration of national days of occupational safety and health to solemn ceremonies remembering those who have fallen ill, been injured or died of work-related causes, also come amid growing concerns over the impact of the global economic and jobs crisis on safety in the workplace.

"It is expected that the number of workplace accidents and diseases and ill health due to unemployment will rise in light of the present economic crisis," said Dr. Sameera Al-Tuwaijri, director of the SafeWork programme. "The decrease in public spending will also compromise the capacities of labour inspectorates and other occupational safety and health services. Precarious working conditions will increase, adding to the risk of accidents and ill-health."

Promoting a Safety and Health Culture

This year, as in previous years, a series of field events and activities are planned around the world to mark the day, ranging from conferences, exhibitions and workshops, to marches and memorial ceremonies, all of them aiming at promoting a safety and health culture in the workplace. The event last year involved some 13,000 activities in more than 100 countries, according to the International Trade Unions Confederation in Brussels.

The theme of this year’s celebrations is, "Health and life at work: A basic human right," in reference to 90 years of commitment to the protection of workers’ health and safety and to the Seoul Declaration on Safety and Health at Work adopted at the Safety and Health Summit in 2008.

"Occupational safety and health is a human right and an integral part of a people-centered agenda for development," said Somavia. "On this World Day, we can make a common stand for the dignity of human life at work. Work must be life giving, not life taking. Decent work is also safe work."

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