UN labour agency marks World Safety and Health Day with focus on HIV/AIDS

28 April 2006
Juan Somavia

From the Caucasus to the Caribbean, from Armenia to Addis Ababa, the United Nations labour agency today marked World Day for Safety and Health with over 100 events worldwide, focusing this year on HIV/AIDS as an occupational safety and health issue.

“The global epidemic of HIV/AIDS hits hardest those of working age and all who depend on them,” International Labour Organization (ILO) Director-General Juan Somavia said in a statement.

“It threatens their rights at work. It undermines business and the economy and the very fabric of society. It is in the interest of all to ensure safe and healthy workplaces that protect workers from HIV and support those affected,” he added, noting that that at any given moment, HIV prevents an estimated 2 million people from going to work, a figure expected to double by 2015.

An ILO report issued for the Day highlights the links between decent work, occupational safety and health and HIV/AIDS. Various elements of ILO's Decent Work Agenda including respect for fundamental principles and rights at work provide the basis for a strong workplace response to both prevention and access to treatment.

The observance of the Day is also promoting awareness of general occupational safety and health issues, including prevention, in a bid to mobilize action to reduce workplace fatalities.

The ILO estimates that total work-related fatalities number about 2.2 million per year of which some 400,000 are attributable to the effects of hazardous substances in the workplace. In addition, some 160 million people suffer from work-related diseases each year.

“This grim toll requires urgent efforts to develop a safety culture at all levels,” the agency said.


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