The Transition to a Green Economy Must Include Better Safety Standards for Workers

kristyGreen Prosperity, SRI/ESG News

WORKERS — UN New York, Apr 28 2012 11:05AM Protecting the safety and health
of workers across the world must be part of transitioning into a green
economy, the United Nations stressed today, warning that while sustainable
jobs may protect the environment and create new employment opportunities,
they may also present a number of unforeseen risks for individuals.

“Occupational safety and health is embedded in the goal of decent work and
decent work for all is central to the social pillar of sustainable
development,” said the Director-General of the International Labour
Organization, Juan Somavia, in his message marking the World Day for Safety
and Health at Work, which is observed annually on 28 April.

According to ILO, two million people die every year from work-related
accidents and diseases, 160 million people suffer from work-related
diseases, 270 million fatal and non-fatal work-related accidents occur e
very year, and four per cent of the world’s annual gross domestic product
(GDP) is lost as a consequence of occupational diseases and accidents.

Mr. Somavia emphasized that the UN Conference on Sustainable Development
(Rio+20) in June will provide countries an opportunity to focus on the
promotion of safer workplaces as part of an inclusive approach to
development that takes into account the needs of people as well as the

“Experience has already shown that some substances while being more
environmentally friendly could be more hazardous to workers’ health.
Consequently, renewable energies, waste management and recycling, as well as
the greening of traditional industries must be approached from the outset
with an eye on the occupational safety and health challenges with the aim of
eliminating old hazards and risks and preventing new ones from emerging,”
Mr. Somavia said.

To mark the Day, ILO also launched a report that looks at different green
industries from an occupationa l safety and health perspective and stresses
that green jobs must be accompanied by appropriate measures to protect all

“Moving towards a green economy implies setting higher standards for
environmental protection while, at the same time, incorporating workers’
safety and health as an integral part of the strategy,” said the Director of
the ILO Programme on Safety and Health at Work and the Environment, Seiji
Machida. “Only then will we be contributing to an environmentally
sustainable and socially inclusive outcome.”

Meanwhile, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights obligations related to
environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and
waste Cali Georgescu warned that millions of workers around the world are
still exposed to disease and injury in their places of work, and called on
countries to pay attention to promote and create a safe working environment
to reduce the number of work-related deaths each year.

“For millions of workers, safety
and protection from disease and injury arising from their employment is not
yet a reality,” Mr. Georgescu said. “I am particularly concerned about the
exposure to these hazardous substances of children and pregnant women, and
call for protection measures to be strictly enforced,” he added.
For more details go to UN News Centre at