IWMD: ITUC-Africa demands action on climate-related occupational health hazards

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By Michael Oche

As workers around the globe commemorate the 2024 International Workers Memorial Day (IWMD), the African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Africa) has raised the alarm over the adverse impacts of climate change on occupational health of workers.

“The need to take action to reduce the growing impacts of the climate, generally, but even more specifically on health is therefore most critical today,” Comrade Akhator Joel Odigie, General Secretary of ITUC-Africa said in a statement to commemorate the day.

A new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) titled “Ensuring safety and health at work in a changing climate” estimates that a staggering number of workers, amounting to more than 70 per cent of the global workforce, are likely to be exposed to climate-change-related health hazards.

However, with existing occupational safety and health (OSH) protections struggling to keep up with the resulting risks of climate change, Odigie said Trade Unions must sensitise their members on the adverse impacts of climate crises on health, and agree ways to alleviate these impacts.

Nigerian Pilot reports that every year, on the 28th of April, trade unions around the world commemorate the International Workers Memorial Day, highlighting the need for workplace safety and health as they remember workers who have lost their lives to workplace accidents and diseases.

This year, the global trade union movement commemorates the day under the theme ‘the impacts of climate crises and occupational health and safety.’

The ITUC-Africa General Secretary said, “trade unions must continue to push for the ratification, application and enforcement of the provisions of the recently adopted core Conventions, 155 on Occupational Safety and Health, and 187 on the Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety. This is necessary to strengthen Governments’ commitment on issues on health and safety at the workplace.”

Odigie said to reduce the adverse impacts of the climate crises, “we call for an end to the privatisation of the environment and advocate for support for vulnerable people, communities and countries, including Africa, to meet their adaptation needs in line with a Just and Equitable Transition.”

He paid homage to workers who have died from workplace accidents, adding that “We remember the dead, and continue to fight for the living, as we strive for a healthy planet for all.”