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Focus Archive

Safework - ILO's Global Programme on Safety, Health and the Environment and the ILO Health and Safety Information Network (ILO/CIS)

May 2003

Around the world, millions of men and women work in poor and hazardous conditions:

Human suffering has no measurable cost, unlike economic losses. Estimates from, for example, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Norway put the direct cost of accidents in billions of dollars. In many developing countries, death rates among workers are five to six times those in industrialized countries. Yet the phenomenon is still largely undocumented and there is insufficient political will to address the problem. Global competition, growing labour market fragmentation and rapid change in all aspects of work creates a mounting challenge for labour protection, especially in developing countries. Workers in rural areas and the urban informal sector are often ignored or difficult to reach.

Safework Goals

SafeWork is the International Labour Office programme that has four major goals:

SafeWork Strategy

SafeWork aims:

First things first

SafeWork will:

Specific strategies are elaborated below for each of the four goals, and include advocacy, building of the knowledge base, capacity building for constituents and support for direct action programmes.

Showing that protection pays. The prevention of accidents, improvement of working conditions and enforcement of standards are often seen as a cost to business. Little is known about the costs of not preventing accidents or poor working conditions, or of the benefits of improvements for productivity and competitiveness. Better information and analytical tools can help increase firms' and governments' willingness to invest in prevention. This strategy will have two main thrusts: extending the knowledge base through a major drive for comprehensive, reliable and sustainable data, and new research on the economics of labour protection. The programme will foster the development of a safety culture worldwide. It will thus demonstrate that prevention policies and programmes benefit all ILO constituents.

Protecting workers in hazardous conditions. Priority must be given to workers in the most hazardous occupations and sectors, such as mining, construction or agriculture, or where working relationships or conditions create particular risks, such as very long working hours, exposure to hazardous chemicals, work in isolation and work by migrants, etc. The ILO will make use of its extensive experience in the development of standards, codes of practice and technical guides in exploiting the world's information resources, and in developing means of practical action. Member States will be encouraged to set objectives and targets for the protection of workers in hazardous conditions. Particular attention will be given to strengthening the advisory and enforcement capacity of labour inspectorates.

Extending protection. The large majority of workers whose conditions are most in need of improvement are excluded from the scope of existing legislation and other protective measures. Existing policies and programmes need to be reviewed to extend their coverage. This will go hand in hand with action to strengthen labour inspectorates' capacity to develop broad prevention policies and programmes and to promote the protection of vulnerable workers, particularly women workers. Alliances and networks will be extended to include ministries of health, industry, local government, education, and social services, as well as local community groups. Emphasis will also be placed on achieving tangible results through practical action and exchanges of information on good practices.

Promoting workers' health and well-being. The strategy to promote workers' health and well-being will involve the establishment of a data bank on policies, programmes and good enterprise-level practices so as to improve constituents' capacity to identify workers' protection issues and to provide guidance on new approaches. Governments' capacity for prevention, protection, and the application and enforcement of key labour protection instruments will be strengthened.

ILO Health and Safety Information Network (ILO/CIS)

The work of the ILO Safework is shared, through its international network of over 130 institutions in ILO member States - the National and Collaborating Centres, known as ILO/CIS Centres. In most cases, these Centres are government agencies with direct responsibilities for labour affairs, but employers' organisations, workers' organizations and independent institutes are represented as well. They contribute to the processing and dissemination of information by collecting the relevant literature published in their countries and sending it to the CIS; they may also prepare abstracts of the documents, promote the publications of the CIS and other ILO units, produce translations of these publications, collaborate in the compilation of multilingual dictionaries in the area of occupational safety and health, participate in the annual meetings of the CIS Centres and engage in joint efforts to use the latest information technology to disseminate occupational safety and health information.

A country may have only one National Centre. When a National Centre is not enough to serve a country, for linguistic, geographical or demographic reasons, or when responsibilities for occupational safety and health are widely diffused, one or more Collaborating Centres may be named. It may also occur that no one institution qualifies as a National Centre, while one may be designated as a Collaborating Centre.

You can find information on our Centres in three ways. There is an alphabetic list on a series of small, fast loading web pages here. For printing purposes you can load a singe-file version as well. Using the Database of OSH Institutions and CIS Centres you can search & update the data on-line. For in-depth information, including a search engine that works on all the Centres' pages, visit our Centres Portal at

The CIS Newsletter is a monthly newsletter for the International Labour Organisation (ILO) International Occupational Health and Safety Information Centres and is edited by Sheila Pantry OBE. As well as the electronic version there is a paper version which is printed and mailed out by Prevent in Belgium. The CIS Newsletter is NOT an official publication of the ILO but a newsletter containing information from CIS Centres and other sources and is intended to be shared by anyone who finds the data contained useful. Users are free to use and reuse the data in these newsletters.

Annual meeting, London, May 2003

The CIS National and Collaborating Centres' Annual Meeting 2003 will take place on Thursday 22 and Friday 23 May, in London, United Kingdom, at the Imperial Hotel on Russell Square.

The meeting of CIS Centres itself will be preceded on Monday, 19 May 2003 - optional visit to the RoSPA Congress and SHE Expo, Tuesday, 20 May 2003 - visit to the scientific and technical collections of the British Library, Wednesday, 21 May 2003 - workshops on "Creating the electronic OSH information and knowledge service" and "Creating the successful OSH publicity campaign involving inspectors", and on Thursday morning, 22 May 2003 staff members of the UK Health and Safety Executive will give talks on their work in promoting occupational safety and health. On Friday, Roger Bibbings from RoSPA will talk about RoSPA's work and achievements, whilst Sara Lumley from NEBOSH will talk about the International Certificate in OSH.

For further information on Safework InFocus Programme on Safety and Health at Work and the Environment contact: Safework at Tel: +41.22.799.6715, Fax: +41.22.799.6878, E-mail: or