Introduction and acknowledgements


The new global estimates of fatal and non-fatal occupational accidents and disease developed through the collaboration of the ministries and institutes of Singapore and Finland, ICOH and EU-OSHA and the ILO announced, in 2017, that there are 2.78 million fatal work-related injuries and illnesses each year. The vast majority, 2.4 million due to work-related diseases. This equates to over 7600 work-related deaths per day.

These are only the estimates for fatal accidents. Concerning non-fatal accidents it is estimated in 2014 there were 374 million accidents that resulted in at least four days of absence from work. This means that over one million people per day suffer a work-related injury serious enough to keep them off the job for at least four days! And to make matters worse, global experts agree that many serious workplace injuries are not reported or recorded anywhere.

This human suffering also carries with it a significant economic cost. The new global estimate of the economic cost of work-related fatal and non-fatal injuries and illnesses amounts to 3.94 percent of the global GDP. Accordingly, this Guide has been prepared to support and guide labour inspectors and other key stakeholders in better addressing the global OSH challenge.

As defined under Article 3 of the Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81) labour inspection staff have a pivotal role to play in ensuring decent working conditions for workers in all sectors, by:
  •  securing the enforcement of the legal provisions relating to conditions of work and the protection of workers while engaged in their work, including safety, health and welfare;
  • supplying technical information and advice to employers and workers concerning the most effective means of complying with the legal provisions; and,
  • bringing to the notice of the competent authority defects or abuses not specifically covered by existing legal provisions.

The Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155) is also particularly relevant here and Part IV details actions at the level of the undertaking (this is not an exhaustive list) namely the requirement for employers to;
  • ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, (which can be interpreted as “balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble”, employers need to take action if it would be grossly disproportionate to the level of risk) the workplaces, machinery, equipment and processes under their control are safe and without risk to health;
  • ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the chemical, physical and biological substances and agents under their control are without risk to health when the appropriate measures of protection are taken;
  • provide, where necessary, adequate protective clothing and protective equipment to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, risk of accidents or of adverse effects on health;

Convention No. 155 also calls for workers, in the course of performing their work, to co-operate in the fulfilment by the employers of the obligations placed upon them. To assist with this workers are to be provided by the employer with relevant training and information on OSH, and to be consulted by the employer on ‘all aspects of occupational safety and health associated with their work’.

The aim of this guide is to assist inspectors and employers to fulfil the above functions by providing information on the management of OSH issues that are that are common across many sectors of industry. Generic information will be provided, so as to empower and inform users of this guide on the hazards and actions that employers and workers should take to reduce occupational hazards and risks.

The guide also provides information to inspectors on how organizations could develop an OSH management system and on topics that employers should consider in this process to actively manage OSH at their workplaces.

Inspectors are empowered to enforce national legislation and thus ensure compliance with it. It is therefore vital that they are fully conversant with their national legislation and the scope of their authority (Labour inspectors’ powers are determined by Article 12 of the Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81)). Given the international diversity in legislation it is not possible within this guide to discuss legislation. Readers may be interested in the ILO Global Database on Occupational Safety and Health Legislation (LEGOSH), which provides a framework for the main elements of OSH legislation, including OSH management and administration, employers’ duties and obligations, workers’ rights and duties, and OSH inspection and enforcement.

Notwithstanding this, the information contained within the guide details actions that employers and workers could follow to ensure safe and healthy systems of work in their workplaces.

Whilst this guide was designed for inspectors it will also be a useful source of information for employers, workers and other interested stakeholders e.g. consultants, employment injury insurance assessors etc. 


This guide was prepared by Mr Frédéric Laisné-Auer and Mr Andrew Christian, Technical Specialists on Labour Inspection and Occupational Safety and Health within the Labour Administration, Labour Inspection and Occupational Health and Safety Branch (LABADMIN/OSH) of the Governance and Tripartism Department.

The ILO acknowledges that the guide contains public sector information published by Health and Safety Executive, United Kingdom, and licensed under the United Kingdom Open Government Licence

This guide is supported by films, which were produced thanks to the goodwill and support of institutional representatives and actors from the world of work who have opened their doors to us and whom we would like to acknowledge:
  • The General Directorate of Labour (DGT) in France and the DIRECCTE Auvergne Rhône-Alpes and in particular Mr. Laurent VILBOEUF, Mr. Marc-Henri LAZAR and Ms. Sophie CHERMAT.
  • The MEDEF Lyon-Rhône and in particular Mr. Bruno VERNEY, as well as the CNPA and Mr. Sylvain MASSARDIER; the IUMM and Mr. Luc AUDINET and finally Allizé Plasturgie and Mr. Simon GOURGAUD.
  • The company HEXCEL Composites and in particular Mr. Vincent BEYNIER, Mr. Jean-Marc FEUILLAS, Mr. Frank MEISSIMILLY, Ms. Sophie MEYNIEL and Ms. Mireille MANZONI.
  • The company JEAN LAIN Automobiles and in particular Mr. Sébastien NICOLAÏ and Mr. Franck MARY.
  • The CIRFAP and in particular Ms. Sophie Rougemont and Mr. François SASTRE, as well as the CFP and Mr. Bernard CHAMPILOU.
  • The Institute of Industrial Resources (IRI) and in particular Mr. Philippe VIAL.
  • We also thank all the employees and trainees at the filming locations who contributed a great deal to the success of this project.