Tuesday, 03 May 2011 10:31

Excerpts from the Preface to the Second Edition (1971)

Rate this item
(2 votes)

Occupational accidents and diseases remain the most appalling human tragedy of modern industry and one of its most serious forms of economic waste. The best estimates currently available on a world basis reckon the number of fatal injuries at the workplace at close to 100,000 annually. In some highly industrialised countries industrial accidents are responsible for the loss of four or five times as many working days as industrial disputes. In certain cases their cost is comparable to that of national defence. Industrialisation and the mechanisation of agriculture have made the problem acute in a much wider range of countries and occupations.

The economic burden on the community cannot be expressed in compensation costs alone. It also includes loss of production, disruption of production schedules, damage to productive equipment and—in the case of large-scale accidents—major social dislocations. But the economic burden is by no means the full measure of the human cost…
Originally, the main thrust of preventive action was to improve the unhealthiest working conditions and remedy the appalling lack of physical protection against the most dangerous occupational hazards. The first international standards were designed either to do away with the more flagrant abuses impairing health, such as the employment of very young children, over-long hours of work, the absence of any form of maternity protection, and night work by women and children, or to combat the risks most commonly encountered by industrial workers—anthrax, and lead or chronic phosphorus poisoning.

When the ILO passed beyond formulating these basic standards to grapple with the problem of social security, the first question it considered was compensation for occupational accidents and diseases. Workmen’s compensation legislation already existed in many countries; it was developed on the basis of ILO standards and its financial implications gave a powerful impetus to preventive measures. The ILO did much to bring about the standardisation of industrial injury and occupational disease statistics and the systematic collection of data on accident frequency…
Gradually this concentration of attention upon the most flagrant abuses and the highest accident and disease rates broadened into a more comprehensive approach designed to promote the highest standards of safety and health in all industries and occupations. The monumental Model Code of Safety Regulations for Industrial Establishments for the Guidance of Governments and Industry, first issued in 1949 on the basis of work initiated during the Second World War and periodically revised since, was an important step in this direction. It furnished an impetus which has now found expression in a wide range of codes of practice and guides to practice which are complementary to it. In the 1950s this broader approach was reflected in new comprehensive international standards for the protection of workers’ health, welfare facilities and occupational health services.

In the 1960s these were supplemented by a new series of specific provisions dealing with particular risks which had assumed increased importance. In factories, one accident in six is caused by machinery; hence the importance of international standards on the guarding of moving parts which regulate not only the use, sale and hire of machinery having dangerous parts but also its manufacture…

Modern industrial medicine has outgrown the stage where it merely involved first aid in the event of an accident and the diagnosis of occupational diseases; nowadays it is concerned with all the effects of work upon physical and mental health, and even with the impact of man’s physical or psychological disabilities upon his work…

Technological progress now moves far more swiftly than it did 40 years ago. There is every reason to believe that the pace will quicken still further. This second edition of the Encyclopaedia will therefore be merely the next stage in our work. But each stage is the indispensable foundation for its successor. During the coming years the Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety will be an essential tool for humanising the working environment and improving the lot of workers the world over. In human and economic terms alike higher health and safety standards are a primary responsibility of enlightened social policy and efficient management. Neither can be effective without the comprehensive body of knowledge necessary to appraise the relevance of current information to policy and action. The present Encyclopaedia, which was prepared under the technical responsibility of Dr. Luigi Parmeggiani, Chief of the Occupational Safety and Health Branch, is designed to make readily accessible to all the comprehensive knowledge of these matters which is now available. In editing the Encyclopaedia, Dr. Parmeggiani has worthily maintained the traditions established by Dr. Luigi Carozzi, who laid the foundations of the industrial health work of the ILO.

Wilfred Jenks
International Labour Office
Geneva, 1971

Read 5653 times

" DISCLAIMER: The ILO does not take responsibility for content presented on this web portal that is presented in any language other than English, which is the language used for the initial production and peer-review of original content. Certain statistics have not been updated since the production of the 4th edition of the Encyclopaedia (1998)."