COVID-19 pandemic: International Labour Organization (ILO) changes the theme of World Day for Safety and Health at Work from ‘harassment in the workplace’ to ‘stop the pandemic.’

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the focus back on the safety of health workers, mainly from infectious agents.

Doctors, nurses, and health care workers who get exposed to infectious agents like coronavirus are always risking their lives when treating patients.

History of World Day for Safety and Health at Work

International Labour Organization (ILO), which is a tripartite U.N. agency observed the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on
28 April 2003 for the first time. The ILO works to ensure that it serves the needs of workers by bringing together governments, employers, and workers to set standards for a healthy work environment. Since 2003 it has become an annual event and is an international crusade for the safety and health improvement of workers across the globe. On this day, we also retrospect on the lives lost due to work-related injuries or diseases at there workplaces. Illnesses and deaths due to work-related injuries have a tremendous negative impact on the families of these members and the economies across the planet.

The theme of World Day for Safety and Health at Work for 2020

Earlier violence and harassment in the workplace was proposed the theme for 2020 by ILO. However, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the theme was changed to “stop the pandemic.”  The theme identifies the difficulties faced by doctors, nurses, and other health workers across the planet in dealing with the novel coronavirus and other infectious agents.

Health staff in many countries are coping with significantly increased workload due to a sudden increase in patient load. The coronavirus pandemic arrived at a time when many countries are facing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and masks. Many health workers had to treat COVID-19 patients without adequate protection. COVID-19 pandemic exposed the doctors and nurses to the COVID-19 virus. Many health workers fell ill, leading to a further decrease in the workforce at the time of increased workload.

Wearing the personal protective equipment (PPE) kit is very discomforting. Longer working shifts due to increased workload in the hospitals has increased the risk of health workers getting infected with the coronavirus. Psychological stress due to long working hours and the inability to meet the family members has further deteriorated the health of health workers. There are reports of doctors and nurses been discriminated by society as they deal with infectious agents. Discrimination by the public has further increased the mental stress of health workers.

World Day for Safety and Health at Work brings to focus the need to maintain adequate stock of personal protective equipment (PPE) kits, masks, and other protective equipment. Governments across the world should also reassess the number of doctors, nurses, and other health staff that should be appointed so that there is enough workforce available at the time of an epidemic.

Many professionals, including Police officials, security guards, sanitation workers and administrators, are also getting infected in this pandemic. Governments should urgently provide these officials with better protective equipment and training.

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