Declaration on Occupational Health for All
the Second Meeting of the WHO Collaborating Centres in Occupational
Health held in Beijing, People's Republic of China, in October 1994
[The meeting, which was attended by representatives of 31 WHO
collaborating centers from 27 countries, ILO, UNDP, and the
International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH), developed a
proposal for a Global Strategy on Occupational Health for All.]
The participants adopted a Declaration on Occupational Health for All,
which underlines that the fundamental right of each worker is the
highest attainable standard of health. To achieve this objective, access
to occupational health services should be ensured for all workers,
irrespective of age, sex, nationality, type of employment, or size and
location of the workplace.
The Declaration emphasizes the occupational health is an important
factor for sustainable socioeconomic development, enabling workers to
enjoy a healthy and productive life throughout their active working
years and beyond. It urges WHO Members States to develop national
policies and programmes for occupational health with appropriate legal
provisions and systems for enforcement and inspection by competent
authorities. An occupational health service should comprise, first of
all, a multidisciplinary preventive element including surveillance of
the work environment and health of workers and, where appropriate,
relevant curative and health promotion components. The Declaration encourages
experts, appropriate professional bodies and other nongovernmental
organizations to participate in and give support to occupational health
activities at all levels.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH FOR ALL
The Second Meeting of the WHO Collaborating Centres in Occupational Health,
which was held in Beijing, people's Republic of China, II-14 October 1994,
discussed and adopted a proposal for a WHO Global Strategy for "Occupational
Health for All". In adopting the strategy, the meeting recognized the urgent need to
develop occupational health at a time when rapid changes in working life
affecting both the health of workers and the health of the environment in all
countries of the world. The meeting also adopted a proposal for action aimed at
implementation of the strategy.
The meeting was attended by representatives of 3 1, collaborating centres in 27
countries, WHO, the International Labour Office, the United Nations Development
Programme and the International Commission on Occupational Health. The WHO
Workers' Health Programme and the Institute of Occupational Medicine of the
Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine were the main organizers of the
HEALTH AT WORK - A PRIORITY ISSUE
According to the best available estimates 100 million workers arc injured and 200
000 die each year in occupational accidents and 68-157 million new cases of
occupational disease arc attributed to hazardous exposures or workloads. Such
high numbers of severe health outcomes contribute to one of the most important
impacts on the health of the world's population. Occupational in-juries and
diseases play an even more important role in developing countries where 70% of
the working population of the world lives. By affecting the health of the working
population, occupational injuries and diseases have profound effects on work
productivity and on the economic and social well-being of workers, their families
and dependants. According to recent estimates, the cost of work-related health
loss and associated productivity loss may amount to several per cent of the total
gross national product of the countries of the world.
The formal workforce constitutes on average 50-60% of a country's total
population. If informal work and work at home are also taken into account, the
major part of the population is involved in work. This work products all economic
and material values and sustains all other societal activities thus ensuring the
socio-economic development of countries.
The Constitution of the WHO, the Alma Ata Declaration on Primary Health Care,
the WHO Global Strategy on Health for All, plus the ILO Conventions on
Occupational Safety and Health and on Occupational Health Services stipulate
among other issues the fundamental right of each worker to the highest attainable
standard of health. To achieve this objective, access to occupational health services
should be ensured for all workers of the world irrespective of age, sex, nationality,
occupation, type of employment, or size or location of the workplace.
Although effective occupational health and safety programmes and many structural
changes have improved the conditions of work in some sectors, several hazardous
agents and factors such as physical, chemical, biological as well as psychosocial
stress in addition to occupational accidents still threaten the health of workers in all
countries continuing to cause occupational and work-related diseases and injuries
throughout the world. In some economic sectors and in some countries
occupational health indicators show even worse trends than in the past.
Although the transfer of healthy and safe technologies has had a positive impact on
development, the transfer of hazardous technologies, substances and materials to
developing countries, which have insufficient capacity to deal with such problems,
constitute a threat both to the health of workers and the environment.
New developments in work, the work environment and work organization, the
introduction of new technologies, new chemical substances and materials in all
countries, and the growing mechanization and industrialization in developing
countries can lead to new epidemics of occupational and work-related diseases
and in-juries. In addition, demographic changes in working populations call for new
strategies and programmes for occupational health throughout the world.
The level of occupational health and safety, the socio-economic development of the
country and the quality of life and well-being of working people are closely linked
with each other. This suggests that intellectual and economic inputs in occupational
health al-e not a burden but have a positive and productive impact on the company
and national economy. Some industries and countries have demonstrated that it is
technically feasible and economically productive to prevent and minimize hazards at
Thus occupational health is an important factor for sustainable socio-economic
development that enables workers to enjoy a healthy and productive life both
throughout their active working years and beyond.
WAY TO A NEW HEALTHY WORKING LIFE
Health and safety at work are important matters that relate to the general health and
well-being of working people and that should be given due consideration in policies
at all levels (i.e. company, national and international). Health and safety problems
at, work are, in principle, preventable and should be prevented by using all
available tools-legislative, technical, research, training and education, information,
and economic instruments.
Governments are encouraged to prepare a special national policy and programme
for occupational health that include actions for providing competent occupational
health services for all people at. work. Such a programme should include the
development of appropriate legal provisions, and systems for enforcement, and
inspections by competent authorities specially responsible for occupational health.
Governments should ensure the development of necessary infrastructures for
effective implementation of occupational health programmes, including occupational
health services, research programmes, training and education, information services
and data banks.
Networking of such infrastructures within and among the countries
would substantially facilitate their efforts to implement national programmes.
It is a realistic long-term objective to organize well functioning and competent
occupational health services for all workers to en-sure healthy and safe workplaces
as well as the required services for each individual worker. In order to be
comprehensive such an occupational health service should include first of all a
multidisciplinaly preventive element, including surveillance of the work environment
and health of workers and, where appropriate, relevant curative and health
The focal point for practical occupational health activities is the workplace.
Employers are responsible for planning and designing a safe and healthy work,
workplace, work environment and work organization, as well as for maintaining
and constantly improving health and safety at work.
Workers in many countries are trained in occupational safely and health. They have
the right, to know the potential hazards and risks in their work and workplace, and
they should, through appropriate mechanisms, participate in planning and
decision-making concerning occupational health and other aspects of their own
work, safety and health.
Workers should be empowered 10 improve working conditions by their own
action, should be provided information and education, and should be given all the
information, in order to produce an effective occupational health response through
Workers with individual susceptibilities, handicaps and other characteristics
affecting their working capacity have a right, to job adaptation that fits the work to
In order to provide necessary expert support to such workplace-level activities,
expert communities, appropriate professional bodies and other nongovernmental
organizations are encouraged to participate in and give support to occupational
health activities at all levels, including the workplace.
Necessary action should be taken to ensure and enable appropriate collaborative
links between occupational health and other associated activities, such as
occupational safety, environmental health, environmental protection, primary and
specialized health services, and social security.
WHO should consider giving higher priority and better visibility to its policies and
programmes for occupational health. In so doing, WHO should give a full
consideration to the fact that workers are a key target population for health policies
at both international and national levels.
Giving priority to occupational health will
be a move towards a healthy working life and thereby to healthy socio-economic
development. As an organization committed to the protection of people's health,
WHO and its Office of Occupational Health should take the leading role in the
global development of occupational health in general and occupational health
services in particular.
Collaboration of the WHO Workers' Health Programme with other relevant
programmes of WHO and with other international intergovernmental and
nongovernmental organizations should be ensured.
The Second Meeting of the WHO Collaborating Centres in Occupational Health
(currently a network of 52 institutions), by adopting this Declaration, wishes to
encourage Member States and WHO to further develop their occupational health
The meeting recommends that the proposal for the WHO Global Strategy on
"Occupational Health for All" that, was adopted by the Meeting, should be
presented to the Executive Board and further to the World Health Assembly. The
strategy should thereafter be used as the basis for the development of occupational
health activities within the framework of the WHO General Programme of Work.
The collaborating centres commit themselves to give all support within their
possibilities to the implementation of the strategy at international, national and local
Authorized by the Second Meeting of the WHO Collaborating Centres in
Occupational Health, WC Chairpersons of the meeting and the Planning Group of
the Collaborating Centres' Network sign this Declaration.
Beijing, 13 October 1994
Finnish Institute of
Vice Chairperson of the
Chairperson of the
Dr. Richard A. Lemen
National Institute for
Occupational Safety and
Professor Nikolai F.
Institute of Occupational