International consultation on healthy workplaces
New Delhi, India -- 16-18 March 2011
Evelyn Kortum, Technical Officer, Interventions for Healthy Environments, WHO/HQ, email@example.com
Dr Salma Burton, Regional Adviser for Occupational Health, Regional office for South-East Asia
On 16-18 March 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) held a successful International Consultation on Healthy Workplaces at the South-East Asia Regional Office (SEARO). It was attended by 63 participants representing governments and businesses from 18 countries from all six WHO Regions. This included 17 occupational health and safety experts, 11 government officials, 21 business representatives, 4 participants from NGOs, and 10 representatives of various United Nations agencies including International Labour Organization.
The purpose of the consultation was threefold:
- To increase awareness of the business community, workers, occupational health experts and policy makers on the benefits of the comprehensive approach to improving workers' health, as well as on the risk assessment and management model to reduce the health impact of hazardous, unsafe and unhealthy working conditions;
- To collect good practice examples of workplace programmes from different sectors and differently-sized companies that cover the full improvement cycle; and
- To increase ease of use and ownership of the business community to comprehensive healthy workplace programmes.
The consultation was inaugurated by the Regional Director, Dr Samlee Plianbangchang who expressed his support for the initiative and for its importance. He stated that “development of healthy workplaces is important, not just for legal or ethical reasons, but also because we expect healthy workplaces to contribute to healthier and more productive workers. We should also expect healthy workplaces to create “wealthier businesses”.
Over the past three years, WHO has developed a framework and model for healthy workplaces that emphasizes the need for leadership engagement and worker participation at each step of the process. A global network of currently 170 members was set up to support the adaptation or development, implementation and evaluation of healthy workplace programmes.
The following key conclusions were reached at the consultation:
- There is a high degree of support and a strong expressed need for WHO to develop more practical, hands-on guidance for enterprises to help them apply the information provided in the earlier documents. The development of a generic and global guidance document was discussed and stock was taken of needs for the guidance document under preparation.
- In addition to generic practical guidance, there is a need for gender-specific, sector-specific, and culture-specific documentation.
- While SMEs and MSEs are badly in need of guidance documents, multinational corporations can often be the conduit to reaching these enterprises.
- While the WHO healthy workplace model is initially aimed at the enterprise level (workplace parties such as management and workers), the model was felt to be appropriate by policy makers in developing countries and a publication focusing on the needs of policy makers was requested.
- There is support to pilot, adapt, implement and evaluate the global guidance in different regions, at different levels (national, sectoral, organizational, workplaces), and levels of intervention with local expert support.
- There is support to collect and develop suitable training packages to enhance the implementation of comprehensive healthy workplace programmes.
- The network is a critical part of spreading knowledge and expertise globally.
- There is strong support for a WHO International Consultation on healthy workplaces in the informal sector.