ILO urges governments to protect workers now and after lockdowns ease

All employers need to carry out risk assessments and ensure their workplaces meet strict occupational safety and health criteria beforehand to minimise the risk to workers of exposure to COVID-19, it said.

Without such controls, countries face the very real risk of a resurgence of the virus. Putting in place the necessary measures will minimise the risk of a second wave of contagion contracted at the workplace.

"The safety and health of our entire workforce is paramount today. In the face of an infectious disease outbreak, how we protect our workers now clearly dictates how safe our communities are, and how resilient our businesses will be, as this pandemic evolves," said ILO Director General Guy Ryder.

"It is only by implementing occupational safety and health measures that we can protect the lives of workers, their families and the larger communities, ensure work continuity and economic survival," he said in a statement.

In particular, risk control measures should be specifically adapted to the needs of workers at the frontline of the pandemic. These include health workers, nurses, doctors and emergency workers, as well as those in food retail and cleaning services.

The ILO also highlighted the needs of the most vulnerable workers and businesses, in particular those in the informal economy, migrant and domestic workers. Measures to protect these workers should include education and training on safe and healthy work practices, free provision of PPE as needed, access to public health services and livelihood alternatives.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for strong national programmes to protect the health and safety of health workers, medical professionals, emergency responders and the many other workers risking their lives on our behalf," said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"On World Day for Safety and Health at Work, I call on all countries to assure well-defined, decent and safe working conditions for all health workers," he said.

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