The first of May is a day of remembrance for workers, dignity of labour, safety and health issues, and wellbeing of labourers. This day also provides an opportunity to highlight the preventable nature of most workplace incidents and ill health and to promote campaigns for the fight of improvements in workplace safety. Islam and constitution of Pakistan respect all kinds of works for ensuring one’s livelihood so long as there is no injustice involved. Earning one’s living through decent labour is not a duty but a great virtue as well. Economic developments are still depended on labour and human resources. That’s why Abraham Lincoln, in his message to the congress said “Labour is prior and independent of Capital”

ILO reports indicate that while 2.2 million people die every year due to work-related accidents or illnesses, more that 270 million workers are injured and estimated 160 million suffer work-related illnesses. The report says this grim toll also costs the global economy an estimated 4 per cent in lost GDP, equivalent to 20 times all official development aid put.

According to new report from the International Labour Organization (ILO), Changes in working practices, demographics, technology and the environment are creating new occupational safety and health (OSH) concerns. Growing challenges include psychosocial risks, work-related stress and non-communicable diseases, notably circulatory and respiratory diseases, and cancers. Death caused by hazardous substances at work is all time high linked to 1 million preventable deaths worldwide each year which is unacceptable.

Unfortunately, the overall development approach in the field of OSH in the world is mainly focused on workplace accidents; addressing occupational diseases is still not a priority. Occupational diseases (silicosis, asbestosis and occupational cancers and many more) are invisible and imminent threat for workers everywhere in the world. The absence of OSH rights, social protection and just compensation for industrial accidents, injuries and diseases are pushing affected families deeper into poverty and making them vulnerable.

Recent tragic workplace accidents in Baldiya Factory Karachi and Ship breaking yards at Gaddani Baluchistan show that, health and safety of workers is not prioritized by employers and enforcement agencies of the government. Occupational accident victims specially women and young people are even being further marginalized as they find it even harder to find long term unemployment or forced to take precarious work that is low paid, unprotected and hazardous.

The employers and government agencies must recognize the economic cost, the immeasurable human suffering such illnesses and accidents. These are all the more tragic because they are largely preventable. The government can safely protect the prestigious lives of workers by adopting ILO Conventions.

According to UNHCR, exposing workers to substances that do not have a determination of a health-based safe level of exposure is a violation of their rights. At the most fundamental level, comprehensive information regarding the intrinsic health hazards of the vast majority of industrial chemicals continues to be absent, including their ability to cause cancer, to be mutagenic or to be toxic for reproduction Continued exposure of workers to such chemicals not only constitutes a challenge to the rights of these workers to information, but also may amount to exploitation by deception. Without such information about toxic exposures at work, this further limits the rights of workers to realize other related rights.

In Pakistan, OSH legislations are out-dated (regressive) as these generally fail to keep in step with emerging workplace issues and non-standard forms of employment. Enforcement of OSH legislations are a serious concern in Pakistan and require joint responses across the country. Updated OSH legislation in Pakistan is reflecting the nature of work is crucial to prevent workplace accidents and diseases and to ensure just compensation for victims.

The ILO convention 155 (occupational health and safety) and 170 (chemicals convention) is considered as basic international labour standard for securing health and safety rights of all working people inside the national boundary; ensure safe chemical management and explosive fee workplaces. On the other hand, the important feature of the ILO convention 155 is applied to all workers in all branches of economic activity. Therefore, ratification of 155 by Pakistan is very important to ensure state’s basic legal obligation, ensure occupational health and safety rights of all workers within the country. The formulation of harmonization of compensation systems and ratification of ILO Convention 155 is an urgent need in Pakistan.

The main goal of ILO conversion 170 is to provide workers with information about the chemicals at their workplaces, and about appropriate preventive measures so that they can effectively participate in protective programmes; establishing principles for such programmes to ensure that chemicals are used safely, but regretfully it is found that, till now only few countries in Asia has ratified convention 155 such as China, Korea, Mongolia, Australia, Fiji and Kazakhstan. Its ratification status in south Asia and South East Asia is nil. On the other hand only 21 countries in the world ratified ILO convention 170 (chemical safety), and only China and Korea from Asian region are included that list.

The Global Commission on the Future of Work has recommended recently in its report that a universal labour guarantee required that protects workers ’fundamental rights, an adequate living wage, limits on hours of work and safe and healthy workplaces. The Government of Pakistan should immediately ratify the ILO Convention 155 and 170 as part of states obligation towards ensure safe, healthy and hazards free work places at national level and start awareness campaign to workers and employers about new occupational safety and health issues. These two conventions are protective tools for innocent workers at workplaces