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ILO Recognizes Safety & Health as a Fundamental Right at Work
June 10, 2022

U.S. Statement on Adoption of the Resolution Recognizing “A Safe and Healthy Working Environment” as a Fundamental Principle and Right at WorkDelivered by Thea Lee

Deputy Undersecretary for International AffairsU.S. Department of Labor

2022 International Labor Conference

The ILO estimates that over 2.3 million women and men die each year around the world due to work-related accidents and diseases, while tens of millions more experience injury or illness on the job.

Of course, no worker should ever risk their safety and health for a paycheck. It is far more difficult and complex, however, to prevent and remedy workplace injuries and fatalities. Today, we take an important step toward doing just that.

The United States applauds the International Labor Organization for recognizing the right to “a safe and healthy working environment” as a fundamental principle and right at work.

This will have tremendous benefit for the millions of workers who face dangerous or unhealthy working conditions. This important milestone by the ILO will reaffirm workers’ human right to a safe and healthy workplace and help ensure that workers who speak up do not risk losing their jobs. It will also strengthen the ability of unions, civil society organizations, and government institutions to ensure safety and health at work.

The ILO’s 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work established an international consensus on the core body of labor rights in four categories: freedom of association and collective bargaining; the elimination of forced or compulsory labor; the effective abolition of child labor; and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

By virtue of membership in the ILO, every member state has committed to respect, promote, and realize these rights.

Today, these core rights now include “a safe and healthy working environment”. After the experience of a global pandemic, we know that the right to a safe workplace is often a matter of life or death. Chair, the United States is delighted to contribute to this momentous decision. We are honored to join you in taking steps towards a world in which everyone can work safely and with dignity.

We would like to thank the chair, our fellow government members, and the social partners for their sincere and collaborative efforts to adopt this resolution.

Thank you.