Occupational Health and Safety-a crucial component of decent work

The annual World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April promotes the prevention of work-related accidents and diseases across the globe. NIR and Swedish Workplace Programme (SWP) emphasises the importance of occupational health and safety as a crucial component of decent work and highlights this opportunity to increase awareness of the importance of creating a safe and healthy work culture.

When you go to work, you assume that you will come home again in the same condition as when you left. Unfortunately, this is not always the case – some employees come home with injuries that affect their and their families’ lives while other employees are not feeling mentally well after a day at work.

Based on ILO estimates, 2.3 million employees die every year from work-related injuries and diseases. An additional 160 million employees suffer from non-fatal work-related diseases and 313 million from non-fatal injuries per year. The economic costs to companies and economies is significant. The ILO estimates that more than four per cent of the world’s annual GDP is lost because of work-related injuries and diseases.

Preventing work-related injuries and diseases is everyone’s responsibility but structures and pre-conditions needs to be in place to ensure that everyone can take on this responsibility. Authorities are responsible for providing institutional structures and laws ensuring occupational health and safety. This includes a national policy and an inspection system to enforce compliance with occupational health and safety laws. Employers are responsible for having OHS workplace policies and ensuring the implementation of these to safeguard their employees’ environment. Employees are responsible for working safely and protecting themselves, not endangering others, knowing their rights, and participating in the implementation of preventive measures.

The pandemic increased the speed in the OHS-work
Occupational health and safety is a crucial component of decent work and a healthy work culture.
Safety and health at work are highlighted on this world day day but is important every day for employees and employers.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, representing an unprecedent threat to business, companies saw the importance of quickly adopting new routines to keep their employees safe, not only against the virus but by improving the current safety aspect of the workplace. A[AC1]  structure for dialogue within the workplace where employers, employees and trade union representatives could discuss occupational health and safety measures proved to be a success factor.  Companies already having such a structure in place had the advantage of communicating more effectively to quickly find solutions to address the effects COVID-19 and to continue working safely.

Throughout the pandemic, SWP has invited companies, organisations, trade unions and sustainability experts in a knowledge sharing forum called Sustainable Business Platform, SBP. Participants have discussed short and long-term solutions to occupational health and safety challenges aiming at ensuring a safer work environment and the sustainability of their business.  

During the same period SWP have initiated workplace programmes with companies to set up structures promoting inclusive dialogue in the workplace. The first steps, facilitated by the Regional Programme Coordinator in each market, have been conducting gap analysis, workshops and agree on action plans to improve working conditions and promote a safe and healthy workplace.

Read more about the Sustainable Business Platforms and learn more about the SWP approach in the workplace programmes.

Read about the UN World Day for Safety and Health at work


The pandemic affected the workplaces
Knowledge sharing in SWP’s Sustainable Business Platform

More recent highlights


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This executive summary presents the findings from the study “Workplace Cooperation: Finding Practical Solutions in the Colombian Context,” conducted by the Fundación Ideas para la Paz (FIP). The study evaluates the added value of the Swedish Workplace Programme (SWP) dialogue and cooperation model within the Colombian labor market.

Throughout 2022, FIP dedicated efforts to thoroughly understand the SWP model, including its concept, foundations, implementation process, and contributions to the labor market. In 2023, FIP documented the experiences of three companies—SKF Latin Trade, Securitas, and Epiroc—that implemented the SWP model in practice. The study also included face-to-face workshops to gather feedback from various stakeholders including civil society, businesses, government, academia, and international cooperation. The findings suggest that the SWP model has the potential to strengthen labor relations, contribute to decent work, and resolve workplace conflicts in Colombia.

The case studies highlight the importance of collaboration between employers and workers to promote decent work and sustainable development in Colombia. They demonstrate that social dialogue facilitates worker participation in labor decision-making, enhances their representativeness, and promotes cooperation between employers and employees, thus improving labor relations and contributing to the well-being of both employees and companies.

The SWP model is particularly noted for improving workplace relationships and commitment to jointly finding solutions to challenges faced by workers and the company. It empowers workers, enhances leadership, and helps integrate business policies into daily practices, reducing the initial disconnect between management objectives and the day-to-day realities of workers. The study also highlights the model’s capacity to manage conflicts constructively, transforming the perception of conflict as an opportunity for improvement. Structured dialogues deepen understanding of the underlying causes of conflicts, fostering empathy and facilitating effective resolution. This promotes a culture of collaboration and a democratic approach to decision-making, building trust.

Additionally, the model is recognized for enabling workers to make decisions, identify challenges, and propose solutions that impact their well-being, and bridging gender gaps in the workplace. Its inclusive approach adapts to the unique needs and characteristics of each company, promoting a stronger and more diverse organizational culture. It also drives good work performance and productivity by involving workers in problem identification and resolution, as well as in implementing improvements and efficiently identifying ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) risks for companies.

The document identifies the SWP model’s added value in empowering direct interaction among labor stakeholders in Colombia, overcoming historical or cultural reservations, and contributing to the development of stronger labor relations and improved workplace environments in the country.

Challenges and opportunities of the model are also discussed. The study points out the importance of addressing value chain risks, particularly in a global context where corporate clients demand decent work processes and due diligence. It emphasizes the need to integrate SMEs into this process and use anchor companies as drivers of social dialogue throughout the value chain. The role of the state in social dialogue and the importance of highlighting the benefits of the model for adoption across various business sectors are discussed.

The opportunities of the model include raising awareness of human rights in the workplace in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP), to strengthen due diligence, manage risks, promote long-term sustainability, and improve organizational culture. The document also underscores the importance of involving workers in change processes, leveraging their insights for continuous improvement of processes, and fostering innovation opportunities. Lastly, it suggests replicating the model in value chains to address work environment risks and gender biases, involving suppliers and contractors, and integrating the model into corporate policies to strengthen existing programs and transform organizational culture towards resource efficiency and effective participation of employers and workers.