Workplace injuries and illnesses have a significant impact on individuals, workplaces and our community. Safe Work Australia reports that as at 23 April 2020, there have been 63 Australian workers killed at work in 2020. On a global scale, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates 2.3 million women and men succumb to work-related accidents or diseases every year - this corresponds to over 6,000 deaths every single day! In addition, there are around 340 million occupational accidents and 160 million victims of work-related illnesses annually.
Today, Tuesday, 28 April is World Day for Safety and Health at Work and Workers' Memorial Day. The world day is a time to think about how our actions can prevent future work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses. It is also a day to remember those who have died from a work-related injury or illness. By raising awareness of work health and safety and by taking action, we can help prevent further injuries and death.
Significance of the 2020 Theme
The 2020 theme, Stop the pandemic: Safety and health at work can save lives, embodies the requirement to adapt to rapidly changing workplace practices as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Australian work health and safety laws stipulate that employers have a duty of care for the health and safety of their employees and others in the workplace. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, it has been an absolute priority for Envirolab to ensure that we’re taking care of the health, safety and wellbeing of our team and community at all times. Some measures taken have included an increased focus on hygiene and cleanliness in the workplace, the implementation of physical distancing or social distancing practices. While the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) has always been part of the health and safety practices of our workplace (prior to the pandemic), PPE (e.g. respiratory protection, eye and face protection, hand protection, and protective clothing, to name a few) still remains essential for the protection of staff, in all circumstances:
Staff are required to wear prescribed PPE as instructed.
Staff are not to undertake or be required to undertake tasks requiring PPE if the PPE is not available for use. Any such tasks are not to proceed until required PPE is available.
Any staff member concerned about their safety must raise their concerns immediately to their manager or supervisor.
As responses and measures continue to be updated by organisations around the world, concerns remain for workers, particularly “essential workers,” on the front line. While there has been regular tracking and reporting of worldwide infections and fatalities, totals by the types of workers through workplace exposure was not as clear at the time of writing. For example, health and safety concerns remain for health workers who have direct infection risks arising from close contact with patients and/or potentially infectious co-workers as well as many other types of workers within other essential industries and sectors where workers are in close proximity to members of the public (e.g. emergency services, public transport and education). Furthermore, workers may also be exposed to additional stress and mental health risks, which recently have been linked to reported shortages of PPE for many workers.
Protecting safety and health at work therefore remains an enormous challenge for Governments, employers, workers and their organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why it’s important that we work together to raise awareness on the adoption of safe practices in workplaces and the role that occupational safety and health (OSH) services play.
About World Day for Safety and Health at Work and Workers’ Memorial Day
The day was declared by the ILO and takes place every 28 April to promote 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.
The day also honours the memory of victims of occupational accidents and diseases by organising worldwide mobilisations and awareness campaigns on this date. This year's theme or slogan is Stop the pandemic: safety and health at work can save lives.
For more information on annual campaigns since 2003, please visit www.ilo.org/safeday
Additional Resources and Further Reading
Safe Work Australia has put together COVID-19 information for workplaces to help employers respond to COVID-19, including details for specific industries such as building and construction, retail and childcare.
ILO has resources for you to use to raise awareness for health and safety in your workplace.
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