OSH is regulated at international, regional and national levels. Safety and health in the workplace does not just apply to typically dangerous jobs, such as working at height or with chemicals, but to all places of employment, including offices. Additionally, OSH laws and regulations also include the requirement of employers to adapt work and the workplace to the capabilities of the workers in light of their physical and mental health.
The burden of occupational mortality and morbidity is not equally distributed across the world, among industries and among the workforce. About two-thirds (65 per cent) of global work-related mortality is estimated to occur in Asia, followed by Africa (11.8 per cent), Europe (11.7 per cent), Americas (10.9 per cent) and Oceania (0.6 per cent). The rates of fatal occupational accidents per 100,000 workers also show stark regional differences, with rates in Africa and Asia 4 to 5 times higher than those in Europe.
Furthermore, manufacturing, construction, transportation and storage are the industries that experience the highest level of work-related accidents. In these highly hazardous sectors — as elsewhere — work-related injuries are not equally distributed among the workforce. The workers most exposed to work-related injuries are those in precarious employment (temporary, casual or part-time workers), workers in informal employment, those working in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and work performed by groups subject to discrimination and marginalization (such as migrant workers, young workers and racial and ethnic minorities).
Work-related injuries vary in scale and have multiple causes, but relate primarily to deficient national OSH systems, including the legislative framework and weak regulatory oversight, and the absence of a culture of safety and health at the national and workplace levels. When large-scale work disasters such as the Rana Plaza accident in April 2013 occur, they often reveal the absence of universal employment injury protection schemes, which leave victims and their dependants without any financial, medical or rehabilitation support.
Human Rights Due Diligence
As part of the corporate responsibility to protect and respect human rights outlined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
(UNGPs), entitlement to safe and healthy workplaces for workers should be reflected in the human rights due diligence approaches businesses conduct. While OSH hazards are intrinsic to all workplaces around the world, businesses need to pay particular attention to workplaces in countries with limited resources, weak legal frameworks, and inadequate enforcement and support functions.