Caring for those who care
WHO publishes guide for the development and implementation of occupational health and safety programmes for health workers.
Occupational health and safety programmes aim to prevent diseases and injuries arising out of, linked with or occurring in the course of work, while improving the quality and safety of care, safeguarding the health workforce and promoting environmental sustainability in the health sector.
Health workers face a range of occupational risks associated with infections, unsafe patient handling, hazardous chemicals, radiation, heat and noise, psychosocial hazards, violence and harassment, injuries, inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene.
The protection of health and safety of health workers should be part of the core business of the health sector: to protect and restore health without causing harm to patients and workers.
Comprehensive and gender-responsive programmes for managing occupational health and safety for health workers at national, subnational and health facility levels can prevent diseases and injuries caused by work, while improving the quality and safety of care, human resources for health and environmental sustainability in the health sector.
This guide, published by WHO, suggests that programmes for occupational health and safety for health workers include:
- sets of planned and coordinated activities at national, subnational and health facility levels that include governance, regulations and standards, human resources, financing and services aimed at:
- preventing diseases and injuries arising out of, linked with or occurring in the course of work
- building healthier and safer working environment
- promoting health and well-being of health workers.
- programmes for occupational health and safety for health workers are based on the following principles:
- employers of health workers have the duty to implement occupational health and safety measures, while health workers have the right to healthy and safe working conditions, a duty to comply with the instructions for health and safety and to take reasonable care of their own safety
- occupational health and safety measures require a system for management, continuous improvement and regular dialogue between employers, workers and their representatives, as well as involvement of other stakeholders
- efficiency can be increased by establishing synergies between programmes targeting health workers and health facilities, such as programmes on the quality and safety of care, health workforce management and environmental health
- the aim should be to cover all health workers in all types of health facilities and that programmes are implemented in sustainable ways to ensure continuous protection of the health and safety of health workers at all times
- development and implementation of the programmes should be gender responsive, non-discriminatory and inclusive, taking into account the special needs of female health workers, migrant health workers, vulnerable groups and workers with precarious employment conditions.
The guide provides an overview of the key elements of occupational health and safety programmes for health workers at national, subnational and facility levels, as well as advice for the development and implementation of such programmes.
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