Photo credits: mumininan

On the 10th of June 2022, following the proposition by the  General Affairs Committee, the delegates attending the International Labour Conference have adopted a resolution  to add the principle of a safe and healthy working environment to the International Labour Organization (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

End of May, the ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder said: ‘By elevating OSH to a fundamental right, the International Labour Conference would express its determination that health and safety at the workplace offers significant human and economic benefits, supports inclusive economic growth, and is crucial to a human-centred recovery and the future of work’.

Occupational Safety and Health becomes the fifth category of Fundamental Principles and Rights at work, completing the existing four categories: freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, the abolition of child labour and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

Contrary to Conventions – which are subject to ratification by individual Member States to be applicable, all Member States (187 Members) are expected to respect, promote and realize Fundamental Principles and Rights . Up to now, the ILO has focused on the right to decent, safe and health working conditions with the adoption of Conventions and Resolutions. OSH appears already in the 1944 Declaration of Philadelphia and the ILO Declaration on Social Justice and a Fair Globalization. According to the ILO itself, half of their Conventions and Recommendations are either wholly or partly concerned with OSH related issues.

Each of the Fundamental Principles is associated with the most relevant ILO Conventions. For OSH, the Conventions C-155 and C-187 will now be considered as Fundamental Conventions. The Occupational Safety and Health Convention (C-155) includes, in particular, the obligation for employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the workplaces, machinery, equipment and processes under their control are safe and without risk to health. It is important to stress that ILO has always had a broad understanding of workers’ health, as not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. It also includes ‘the physical and mental elements affecting health which are directly related to safety and hygiene at work’ (art.3). With the Promotional Framework for OSH Convention (C-187), ILO Members commit to promote continuous improvement of OSH to prevent occupational injuries, disease and death, by the development, in consultation with the most representative organizations of employers and workers, of a national policy, national system and national program.

Contrary to the European Directive, which are automatically applicable to all Member States once they are adopted, the ILO Conventions only apply to the countries who choose to ratify them. Also, a member of the ILO can decide which conventions to ratify. Even if some countries have already ratified these two conventions, by adding OSH as fundamental right and principle, the ILO will make a concerted effort to achieve universal ratification of these Conventions. Up to now, the ILO Convention n°155 has been ratified by 74 countries. Thus, some European countries will be expected to ratify it, such as: Austria, France, Estonia, Greece. Outside of Europe, it will be the occasion for the United-Kingdom and Canada to ratify C-155. C-187 has been ratified by only 57 countries, and EU Members such as Bulgaria, Estonia, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania will be expected to ratify it. It would also be the occasion for the United-States to ratify this convention as well.