The XXII World Congress on Safety and Health ended with a call for the international community to work together to find solutions to the millions of deaths, diseases and injuries that happen every year due to work.
When considering general exposure to work-related risk factors these figures will be much higher. The number of cases of non-fatal occupational injuries increased from 340 million in 2010 to 360 million in 2016. These figures do not account yet for COVID-19 and the direct impact it had on health, including on mental health.
Among key topics discussed during the Congress were new occupational hazards that have arisen in the connected age.
Issues such as teleworking or the risks associated with new technologies were at the forefront of the discussion, but longstanding occupational hazards were also addressed as people continue to die because of exposure to risks in sectors like construction, agriculture or manufacturing.
Special concerns were raised about disadvantaged groups such as workers in the informal economy, migrant workers and the integration of people with disabilities. The particular characteristics of Occupational Safety and Health in global supply chains, climate change and automation, mental health and non-communicable diseases were also under discussion.
A particular feature of the Congress was the voice given to the younger generation to express their concerns and hopes. One in six young people who were employed before the pandemic, stopped working and forty-two per cent of those that have continued to work have seen their incomes reduced. As expressed by a young entrepreneur, safety and health is not always the priority for youth when looking for a job and this needs to change.
Over 200 speakers from over 40 countries, and 2000 participants representing international organizations, governments, employers and workers’ organizations, academia and OSH professionals called for investments in resilient occupational safety and health systems to respond to COVID-19 pandemic, build back better, prevent and prepare for future crisis, and make of work a positive human experience.
The Congress was organized by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Institute for Work & Health (IWH), the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) and the International Social Security Association (ISSA), from 20 to 23 September.