Expert representatives of governments, employers and workers from around the world gathered at the ILO in Geneva, Switzerland, from 22 to 26 January, to improve and adopt a revised code of practice on safety and health in shipbuilding and ship repair.
Over the last 43 years, since the current code was published in 1974, the industry has changed dramatically in terms of design and building technology. It has also been facing serious overcapacity which has caused market distorting practices, severe cost competition and an increase in precarious workers. Under these circumstances, safety and health has often been neglected, and many serious accidents at shipyards have been reported to IndustriALL Global Union.
Since shipbuilding requires the integration of a wide range of manufacturing techniques and skills, international safety and health standards in this industry need to cover many activities and occupations.
IndustriALL, under the auspices of the International Trade Union Confederation, coordinated the trade union experts’ participation, drawn from the following six countries; Australia, Chile, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, and Singapore.
The approach of the worker’s group at the ILO was based on a fundamental principle that the draft code should raise the minimum occupational health and safety floor for all workers in shipbuilding and ship repair, and secure worker’s representation such as:
- the right to KNOW about the hazards of their work – fully and completely – and to receive the necessary training and education to do the work safely
- the right to PARTICIPATE fully and the right to representation in the development and implementation of health and safety policies, programmes and procedures, including risk assessments
- the right to REFUSE OR STOP unsafe work without fear of repercussions
In the meeting, the experts emphasized the importance of improving occupational safety and health (OSH) in shipbuilding and ship repair. Improved OSH performance will reduce injury rates and fatalities as well as associated economic costs to affected families and societies. It will also contribute to higher productivity and growth and to a safer and greener sector. It will also reduce human suffering related to OSH incidents.
“We face huge OSH challenges in the industry, and we have too often witnessed the loss of lives," said Deborah Vallance, the vice-chairperson representing the workers' group. “The Code of Practice is comprehensive and sound, and it is now our shared responsibility to ensure that it is applied.”
Kan Matsuzaki, Director Shipbuilding and Shipbreaking at IndustriALL, said:
“We welcome this improved code which now covers contract and sub-contract workers. Importantly, there is a lot of content that can be used for shipbreaking workers.”
The Revised Code of Practice on Safety and Health in Shipbuilding and Ship Repair will be put forward for adoption by the Governing Body in March 2018.
All the participants of the meeting held a minute's silence as a mark of condolence for the workers who lost their lives on 16 January by inhaling toxic fumes while cleaning an oven at the Lamina factory in Italy, which produces metal products for shipbuilding.