Occupational health

Occupational health for workers in the informal sector, 16–20 October 2000, Pretoria, South Africa

Rapporteurs: G.Goldstein and G. Eijkemans


The need to strengthen the field of occupational hazard prevention and control in Africa is urgent, as the current neglect carries a heavy burden of disease and disability. Safer and healthier work conditions can make an important contribution to poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Efficient application of available knowledge to practical solutions to overcome the “knowledge application gap” is more important than generating new theoretical knowledge.

In the majority of African countries, the informal sector of the economy is an employment refuge for workers who fall out from the form al sector, and provides a safety net for poor households’ income. Small enterprises and the informal sector are becoming the de facto mainstream, and the realm of employment for the majority of urban dwellers in developing countries. Occupational health services and supporting legislation require refocusing, revision and strengthening to respond to this reality. Often basic preventive measures including education and training for health and safety are overlooked. The informal sector includes many women and children; they are usually not covered by legislation, and do not have access to occupational health services.

The meeting was attended by national, regional and global experts and organizations, and it addressed 3 aspects of a new “African Initiative” in Occupational Health, that can build on existing experiences and projects, such as the PACE (Prevention And Control Exchange) project, the African Healthy City approach, the ILO WISE project, etc. The 3 aspects are:

  • Local demonstration projects.
  • A planning and implementation framework for the African Initiative on Occupational Safety and Health.
  • Review of “Occupational health in small-scale enterprises in the informal sector: A document for decision-makers.”