This Sunday (28th April) is the World Day for Safety and Health at work. It is an annual international campaign which advocates the importance of a safe working environment, as a direct response to the number of occupational accidents and work-related diseases which occur every year. The campaign aims to raise awareness of work-related diseases, stress and injuries which could be avoided through the implementation of proper working conditions.
What is the World Day for Safety and Health at Work?
The International Labour Office (ILO) was founded on the concept of health and safety at work in response to human suffering as a direct result of poor health and safety conditions at work.
Every day, 6,300 people die as a result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases. 317 million accidents occur at work annually; many of which often result in prolonged absences from work.
The ILO also aims to raise awareness of work-related stress and non-communicable diseases, both of which are becoming a growing concern for workers in all parts of the world.
Poor health and safety at work practices are estimated to cost around 4% of global Gross Domestic Product each year. Therefore, the ILO has launched an annual campaign which aims to promote a working culture where safe and healthy working environments are implemented at all levels. The campaign also wants to ensure employers, workers and governments all work together to advocate a safe working environment through implementing different rights and responsibilities where the highest priority is prevention.
What does the present and future work hold for the ILO?
Rapid globalisation has led to a growing number of workers finding themselves working excessive hours and being involved in non-standard forms of employment. However, on the other hand, it has meant that workers are able to enjoy much more flexibility in regards to where and how they work. It has also increased the psychosocial pressures for workers who have to juggle work life and home-based responsibilities. It is no secret that many workers often doing long and unsociable hours as they feel they have to, in order to cover their living costs.
Rapid advancement in technology has revolutionised the workplace but has also led to concerns about the safety of workers using the new robotics, tools or machines. In the absence of proper training or health and safety procedures, workers could be at risk of a serious injury through misuse.
Human-induced climate change is one of the key drivers impacting the world of work. Air pollution from coal or chemicals from plants can seriously impact workers health and the wider public in the surrounding areas. Whilst there has been a move to reduce human exposure to hazardous chemicals in sectors such as mining, the rise of green sectors (such as recycling) could produce currently unforeseen risks.
How is the ILO already rising to the challenges?
The ILO emphasises the importance of developing national and international preventative measures, where the right to safe and healthy working environments is implemented. It has also recognised the need for better management of public health and the prevention of emerging psychosocial risks.
The ILO has highlighted the growing need to increase collaborations and partnerships across non-governmental organisations, governments and public and private institutes.
January 2019 saw the start of the ILO’s centenary celebrations and the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work called for a Universal Labour Guarantee. The guarantee called for limits on hours at work, the promotion and implementation of safe working environments and the introduction of a living wage.
What affects contractors and freelancers at work?
Mental health issues are just as common as physical illness or injury. Factors such as career stress, financial troubles or finding your next assignment can trigger mental health problems such as depression or anxiety.
Equally, injury or illness can be caused by not having the correct protective clothing or equipment, or the incorrect handling of machinery.
Unfortunately, as a contractor or freelancer, you may not have access to the support or Employee Benefits given to permanent employees which will help look after you should you need to take time off for illness.
How can contractors and freelancers look after themselves at work?
As a contractor or freelancer, it is important to look after your mental and physical health. If you are feeling low or are experiencing mental health problems, it is important to reach out to someone and talk about how you are feeling. Friends or family members can offer moral support and can be good to confide in. Or, if you want to speak to someone impartial, seeking the advice of a professional may be a better option for you. Charities such as Mind UK and the Samaritans can offer support and guidance, not just in terms of your career but in any capacity.
It’s important to be able to cope and deal with stress and not let it get on top of you. Churchill Knight has a list of management techniques which could help you manage stress.
Contractors and freelancers can also come into contact with different types of machinery, technology and working environments depending on their role and assignment. It is important to make sure you are properly trained on any equipment prior to using it and always wear the correct protective clothing to prevent injury.
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