Building and Wood
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In construction at least 108 thousand workers are killed on site every year, that figure represents 30 per cent of all fatal injuries. That is one person dying every five minutes because of bad, and illegal, working conditions. The construction industry has a deservedly notorious reputation as being dirty, difficult and dangerous. Tropical loggers stand a one in ten chance of being killed over a working lifetime. Sawmills are increasingly subcontracted and hazardous, whilst wood working continues to rely on the workers skills to avoid injuries, rather than on any prevention measures.
Workers are killed, injured and made sick whilst carrying out routine jobs. The hazards are well known and so are the prevention measures. The overwhelming majority of "accidents" are absolutely predictable and preventable. They are caused by failure to manage risks, or by straightforward negligence on the part of the employer.
All workers have rights to organise, to collective bargaining, to information and training, to be represented, and to refuse dangerous work, but the reality is very different. Unorganised workers have no choice - either they take a dirty and dangerous job, or they will have no job at all. The widespread use of flexible employment practices seriously undermines trade union capacity to organise. Downsizing, outsourcing, labour-only sub contracting and informal labour create bad working conditions.
Planning and coordination of health and safety, and compliance with laws is extremely poor. Greed and corruption is rife. The consequence of bad management in our sectors is the deterioration of working and living conditions for millions of workers and their families. To make matters worse, governments frequently have a permissive, passive attitude towards employers who ignore health and safety laws, even when their negligence leads to the death of a worker.
All this shows that considerable responsibility falls on trade unions to ensure that employers take steps to avoid health risks and save workers' lives. In view of the above, the BWI Global Health and Safety Programme, Strong Unions for Safe Jobs, launched in 2000 involves more than one hundred trade unions in 65 countries in its activities to improve conditions for workers in construction, forestry and timber trades world wide.
The Programme helps affiliates to develop and strengthen their structure, legislative and policy agenda and their organising strategy. The programme organizes training for trade unionists to help them organise effectively on health and safety. This includes institutional participation to improve laws and policy, and participation in the workplace through safety representatives, safety committees.
We also run campaigns for a worldwide ban on asbestos; for strong health and safety laws that are properly promoted and enforced; and our affiliates around the world celebrate International Workers Memorial Day, a permanent organising campaign to highlight the preventable nature of workplace accidents and ill health and to demand social justice.
For ILO Convention 167 on health and safety in construction, see here.