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Promoting Safe and Healthy Work Environments: World Day for Safety and Health at Work

Each year on April 28th, the world comes together to mark the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, a day dedicated to advancing the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases on a global scale.

This initiative, initiated by our sister organization, the International Labour Organization (ILO), in 2003, serves to elevate the political significance of occupational health and safety while fulfilling the crucial advocacy component of their Global Strategy on Occupational Safety and Health.

The importance of this day cannot be overstated, particularly when considering that nearly 60% of the global population is actively engaged in some form of work. It underscores the fundamental right of all workers to a safe and healthy environment, recognizing that a significant portion of our lives is spent within workplace settings, thereby rendering workplace health and safety a critical public health concern.

Occupational health encompasses not only the physical but also the mental and social well-being of workers, with a primary focus on preventing workplace-related hazards. Hazards in the workplace can lead to occupational diseases, eroding workers' capacity to participate in the workforce and resulting in increased rates of long-term illness.

According to estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) and ILO, work-related diseases and injuries were responsible for 1.88 million deaths in 2016 alone. Our WHO South-East Asia Region (SEAR) faces a disproportionately high burden of work-related mortality, with 36.5 deaths per 100,000 of the working population, highlighting the urgent need for action.

Furthermore, informal workers in our Region face additional challenges due to poor working conditions and limited social protection, exacerbating the impact of workplace injuries and economic shocks.

The emergence of climate change has added another layer of complexity to occupational health, with climate-related hazards posing risks to workers' health and safety, particularly in the face of extreme weather events.

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of addressing mental health issues in the workplace, with depression and anxiety impacting productivity and performance. Effective organizational policies, early detection of health issues, and preventive care are essential components in supporting workers' mental health.

Collaboration between health and labor ministries is paramount in comprehensively addressing occupational health, as outlined in our Regional Plan of Action for the WHO Global Strategy on Health, Environment, and Climate Change (2020-2030). Such collaboration is crucial for protecting vulnerable segments of society and ensuring sustainable growth, inclusive development, and resilience to climate change vulnerabilities as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals.

In conclusion, prioritizing occupational health and safety is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic investment in sustainable development and societal well-being. By creating positive, healthy workplaces, we not only benefit individuals but also foster collective prosperity and resilience.

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