Due to working conditions, some 2.02 million people worldwide die from accidents while 317 million are afflicted with diseases yearly. But even with these grave statistics, half the world's population still struggle to make ends meet with just under U.S. $2 a day.
With the intent of reducing this mortality and morbidity rate, the International Labour Organization observes every 28th of April as 'World Day for Safety and Health at Work.' The campaign aims to catch the world’s attention, start discussions, and eventually, encourage strong policies on promoting safe, healthy, and decent jobs. This is also in line with the United Nations' 8th Sustainable Developmental Goal of "Decent Work and Economic Growth" which "require societies to create the conditions that allow people to have quality jobs that stimulate the economy while not harming the environment."
ILO lists the following areas as integral to maintaining a safe and healthy workplace in accordance to global labor standards.
ILO describes stress as "the first sign of a harmful physical and emotional response." It is caused by an imbalance between perceived demands and an individual’s abilities and perceived resources to cope, and manifests through physical and emotional signs and symptoms.
Work-related stress causes physical disorders such as cardiovascular, respiratory, and musculoskeletal diseases, and mental impairments such as burnout, anxiety, and depression. Burnout - defined as a mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion - increases the likelihood of a workplace accident.
These are very relatable and common occurrences in the BPO industry where agents have disrupted circadian rhythms due to night and shift and from dealing with irate customers and managers. Sometimes, in their attempt to de-stress themselves, they are led to lifestyles that are just as health-threatening such as alcoholism and chain smoking.
On the other hand, ILO states that when working conditions and demands are in line with an employees resources, work facilitates confidence, motivation, and excellence. This too has been observed in companies that seriously take into account their employees' sense of job satisfaction. Agent happiness, as it turns out, is directly proportional to excellent performance. And so, a fair trade call center never drives its agents to exhaustion as though they are machines.
Mental health is just an important as physical health; one's well-being must be taken holistically.
ILO underscores that chemical use in the working environment must be balanced, that its risks should never outweigh its benefits, and those that directly work with them are informed, trained, and protected.
"Chemicals" include pesticides used in agriculture or even cleaning products for hygienic purposes. Disregard for chemical safety may directly cause physical injuries or development of diseases due to exposure.
Sickness, disease, and injury should never come anybody’s way due to his work. Human life cannot be manufactured. Thus, its loss and human suffering are too great of an economic cost, going beyond absenteeism, loss of skilled staff, early retirements, and high insurance premiums due to work-related accidents and diseases. ILO believes that through sound prevention, reporting, and establishment of standard practices and inspection policies, these work-related tragedies can be avoided.
Society must not only safeguard its citizens from war or disease but also from threats that incapacitates them to earn a living. Social security systems are expected to provide for basic income in times of illness, injury, old age, retirement, pregnancy, childcare, and loss of the family breadwinner.
Healthcare and security in pay and benefits are principal pledges in a fair trade company because, first, it recognizes them as basic human rights, and second, because they are necessary to the overall well-being of an employee.
The International Labour Standards on Social policy is pegged on the Social Policy (Basic Aims and Standards) Convention (No. 117) in 1962. It considers "the improvement of standards of living… as the principal objective in the planning of economic development" and condemns discrimination on race, color, sex, belief, and all its forms.
In line with this, fair trade principles believe that all employees must be treated fairly and given opportunities to better themselves in order to succeed.
An outsourcing company which abides by fair trade principles knows how intimately intertwined an employee's welfare is with his chances for socioeconomic progress. When health and safety are compromised, so is his capacity to deliver optimum performance, or at least, to even report to work.