In 2007, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a global plan of action for workers health. This plan is important because it acknowledges the risks workers face, and the importance of Occupational Health services.
WHO is an agency of the United Nations. It began life in 1948 with a simple purpose: to be the authority that coordinates public health across the globe.
WHOs main job is to fight disease and to help everyone achieve the best health possible. The health of people at work falls within this remit.
The Global Plan
In the plans introduction, WHO makes a number of points. The first is that half the worlds population is in work. These are the people who give most to social and economic development. But their health is at risk because of Workplace Hazards, access to health services, and individual and social issues.
The second point WHO raises is that there are gaps between and within countries in relation to the health of workers and exposure to hazards. And only a fraction of the worlds workers have occupational health services that can help them.
The plans introduction concludes by saying that the movement of jobs and workers is leading to improvements in workplace health. But vulnerable groups such as older people, pregnant women and children are experiencing increasingly dangerous work environments.
The global plan of action for workers health seeks to resolve such problems. To do this, WHO has created a set of principles.
These principles state that:
- All workers should be able to have the highest possible standard of mental and physical health
- Workplaces must not damage health and well-being
- The prevention of occupational health hazards must be a priority
- Health services should place great emphasis on ensuring and promoting workers health on an international scale
WHO backs these principles with a set of proposed actions and key objectives.
There are five objectives in total. The first is to devise and introduce policies about the health of workers. WHO recommends that countries give such policies the force of law.
The second is to safeguard and encourage workplace health. To do this, WHO suggests countries have regulations for health and safety standards.
The third objective is to improve occupational health services and create better access to them. One of WHOs recommendations here is to integrate occupational health with national strategies for health reforms.
The fourth of WHOs objectives is to produce and make available the evidence for taking action on workers health. This can help the promotion of best health practice.
Whos last objective is to build workers health into government policies in other sectors. These sectors should include poverty reduction and economic development.
In the UK, occupational health is already well advanced. But there are still gaps that the government and employers can close by following the WHO objectives.
There are also wide differences in the way the UK handles occupational health and the way many less-developed nations deal with it. In this regard, the UK can help other countries to improve workers health across the globe.