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A fundamental principle and right at work

IOSH policy position

A safe and healthy working environment has been recognised by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as a fundamental principle and right at work. Here is the IOSH view on this.

What’s the issue?

In June 2022, the ILO recognised a safe and healthy working environment as a fundamental principle and right at work.

We also saw two ILO occupational safety and health (OSH) conventions become ‘fundamental’: C187 Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health and C155 Occupational Safety and Health. The fundamental status means that all member states must ensure workers are provided with safe and healthy working conditions, even if they haven’t ratified these two fundamental conventions.

How do we see it?

Safe and healthy working conditions are fundamental to decent work but too many people aren’t afforded this. Poor working conditions and ill-treatment at work, including poor pay and discrimination, can lead to excessive hours, fatigue, and mental and physical harm.

Now is the time for change. In today’s changing world of work, a human rights-based approach to OSH increases the possibility of securing policies and practices that can lead to decent working conditions. Employers and governments alike will be more aware of the scrutiny they face should they fall short of OSH provisions and protections. Such an approach may also be helpful in achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.

In the next decade, we hope to see ratification of ILO OSH conventions. We also want to see the embedding of the social elements of sustainability, requiring decent work, effective and robust OSH management, the prevention of modern slavery and protection for those in the informal economy.

  • ILO member states must ratify ILO fundamental OSH conventions: C187 Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health and C155 Occupational Safety and Health, as well as other core OSH conventions including C161 Occupational Health Services.

  • ILO member states should uphold, reinforce, and promote fundamental principles and rights at work including ‘a safe and healthy working environment’.

  • Take proactive steps to implement due diligence processes in line with the corporate responsibility to promote good OSH.

  • Be instrumental in mainstreaming OSH in all segments of economic activity from conception and planning to execution and delivery of goods and services.

  • Embed OSH across the business to achieve a safer, healthier, and more sustainable working environment.

This policy position represents IOSH's view as of April 2024 based on the best evidence available to us. We will review it periodically and reserve the right to change and update it drawing on new information.