The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is the Chartered body and largest membership organisation for safety and health professionals. We act as a champion, adviser, advocate and trainer for health and safety professionals working in organisations of all structures and sizes, with members in 130 countries. Our focus is to support our members in creating workplaces that are safer, healthier and more sustainable. We work with a range of partners to keep people safe and healthy in all areas of their work around the world.
Our stakeholders include employers of all sizes and sectors, workers, politicians, regulators, standards bodies and professional networks. IOSH has long called for occupational safety and health (OSH) to be recognised as a fundamental right at work. We recommend that efforts over the next decade should embed social elements of sustainability, requiring decent work, effective occupational safety and health management, the prevention of modern slavery and protection for those in the informal economy. For more information see our policy position here.
There is global recognition that the health of workers is a prerequisite for social and economic development and sustainability in all countries(1) and that both health at work and safe and healthy workplaces are valuable assets.(2) The latest World Health Organization (WHO) /International Labour Organization (ILO) joint report on the burden of work-related death and disease identifies occupational health issues (eg cardiovascular disease, cancer and respiratory diseases) as significant contributors to both the death and disability-adjusted living years of workers, with an anticipated increase into the future.(3) While the incidence of occupational injury is lower than that of health-related issues, injuries continue to impact workers’ lives negatively through economic and social hardship. The prevention of occupational disease and injury is achieved through the implementation of preventative services delivered by multiple stakeholders. These stakeholders assume multi-disciplinary roles with varied functions including occupational safety, health, toxicology, ergonomics and hygiene.(4)
Despite the recognition that occupational safety and health (OSH) is a basic human right,(5-8) and the recent adoption of a safe and healthy working environment as a fundamental principle and right at work,(9) it is reported that 80 per cent of the global working population still do not have access to basic occupational safety and health services, (4, 10) the scope of which are clearly outlined in ILO Conventions 161(7) and 155.(6) In addition, where these services are implemented, they vary in scope, content and quality of service delivery.(10-13) Furthermore, disparities are experienced between high income countries (HICs) and low- and middle- income countries (LMICs), and between occupational sectors and models of work.(14)
Where OSH services are provided, a multi-disciplinary approach is seldom undertaken. The level of service delivery is often based on legislation and regulation, as well as a company’s maturity, size and location.(10) These factors, together with the call to provide workers with universal occupational healthcare, the need to develop socially sustainable businesses and the reported global shortage of OSH professionals (especially occupational health professionals), require a creative approach to ensure, at least, a basic OSH service delivery at the worker level.
The magnitude of work-related death and disease, recent trends and adverse events (eg the changing nature of work, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on worker wellbeing) and widespread recognition of the importance of occupational safety and health (eg ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, 2019,(15) ILO’s declaration of OSH as a fundamental principle and right at work and the impact OSH has on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals) highlight the need to preserve and protect the healthy working life expectancy of all workers in all occupations. Therefore, it is necessary to understand better how OSH services are delivered and influenced by factors including the scope of programmes, facilitators and barriers to service delivery and the competence of those delivering the programmes.
Research is necessary to explore globally the scope, reach and effectiveness of OSH service delivery to workers in order to understand the influence of country economic status (eg HICs vs LMICs), national policy, laws and regulations (eg ratification of ILO conventions), organisation size (eg large, medium, small and/or micro), models of work (eg formal and informal) and occupational sector.
We want to identify the facilitators and barriers that influence OSH service delivery to workers and to establish how this knowledge could be used to improve and promote access to OSH services.
Call for proposals
IOSH is calling for research proposals (in English) from experienced researchers to explore and influence the adoption of occupational safety and health as a universal, basic or fundamental right at work. The requirement is for diverse and inclusive research that has a global reach and includes a focus on both HICs and LMICs.
Proposals that explore any of the following aspects of OSH delivery are desirable:
- organisations from high, medium and low risk sectors
- services provided to formal and informal sector workers
- service delivery from a multi-disciplinary approach.
- World Health Organization. Workers’ health: global plan of action (2008-2017). Report. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2008.
- Rantanen J. Basic occupational health services ¬¬– their structure, content and objectives. SJWEH 2005; (no 1):5-15.
- World Health Organization, International Labour Organization. WHO/ILO joint estimates of the work-related burden of disease and injury, 2000-2016: global monitoring report. Geneva: World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization; 2021.
- Rantanen J, Lehtinen S, lavicoli S. Occupational health services in selected International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) member countries. SJWEH. 2013;39(2):212-6.
- Rantanen J. New challenges to professional ethics in occupational health. Safety and Health at Work. 2022;13:S72.
- International Labour Organization. Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155). Normlex; 1981.
- International Labour Organization. Occupational Health Services Convention, 1985 (No. 161). Normlex; 1985.
- International Labour Organization. Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 (No. 187). In: ILO, editor. Geneva 2006.
- International Labour Organization. ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work 2022 [Available from: https://www.ilo.org/declaration/lang--en/index.htm].
- Walters D, Johnstone R, Bluff E, Jørgen Limborg H, Gensby U. Prevention services for occupational safety and health in the European Union: Anachronisms or supports for better practice? Safety Science. 2022;152:105793.
- Michell KE, Rispel LC. “Mindless Medicals”: Stakeholders’ perceptions of the quality of occupational health service delivery in South Africa. Workplace Health & Safety. 2016;65(3):100-8.
- Bigaignon-Cantineau J, Gonzalez M, Broessel N, Denu B, Hamzaoui H, Cantineau A. Occupational health nurses’ contribution to health care workers’ health. SJWEH. 2005;1:54-7.
- Joseph B. Universal occupational health care – the need of the hour. Indian J Occup Environ Med. 2019;23(2):59-60.
- Rantanen J, editor Globalisation and the implications for worker health. Sharing solutions in occupational health through and beyond the pandemic; 2022; Virtual – Rome and Melbourne.
- Work GCotFo. Work for a brighter future. Geneva: International Labour Organization; 2019.
 This call has closed. For the purposes of the call, the term “occupational safety and health services” referred to the multidisciplinary approach to the protection of health at work and the prevention of adverse outcomes (i.e., injuries and illnesses).