Workers need legal protection, not voluntary standards

An international standard for health and safety may sound like a good idea, but the current proposals could let many workers down, argues Hugh Robertson, senior policy officer at the TUC.

Hugh Robertson, Trades Union Congress

The International Standards Organisation (ISO) is developing a standard, called ISO45001, for the certification of employers’ health and safety management systems. However, the standard has been met with strong opposition from international employer and union bodies on the basis that this matter should be dealt with through social dialogue and through regulation.

They also believed that international standards on labour issues were a matter for the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which has developed 13 conventions on health and safety that have been agreed by trade union, employer and government representatives.

A new draft of ISO45001 has recently been published, and is out for consultation with voting taking place between 19 May and 13 July. Last year, an earlier draft was rejected following criticism from a number of countries and organisations, including the European Trade Union Confederation. Despite considerable criticisms of the overall structure and content of the first draft, the second draft does not make many substantial changes and few of the criticisms of the structure have been addressed.

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