Occupational Safety and Health

Occupational Safety and Health

Safe and healthy working conditions are a prerequisite to just and fair labour rights of workers. Unfortunately, in food supply chains these working conditions are not always guaranteed. Many workers in factories and on farms, especially in the Global South, are subjected to dangerous and/or substandard working conditions. This includes concerns such as health issues and exposure to pesticides, as well as low wages that need to be compensated by working too many hours per day, often without proper breaks. These deplorable conditions greatly affect vulnerable workers.

As one of the most devastating cases, our work in Central America has shown that workers in the region’s sugarcane industry are increasingly getting sick and suffer from Chronic Kidney Disease of non-Traditional causes (CKDnT). There is increasing evidence that one of the main causes of this disease is long working days in warm conditions with lack of access to drinking water and shade.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) constitution sets forth the principle ‘that workers should be protected from sickness, disease and injury arising from their employment’. Furthermore, the ILO together with the World Health Organization (WHO) elaborated that the main focus in occupational health is on:

  • the maintenance and promotion of workers’ health and working capacity;
  • the improvement of the working environment and work in a way that is conducive to safety and health;
  • the development of work organisations and working cultures in a direction, which supports health and safety at work, and in doing so also promotes a positive social climate and smooth operation, and may enhance the productivity of the undertakings.

The concept of working culture is intended in this context to mean a reflection of the essential value systems adopted by the undertaking concerned. Such a culture is reflected in practice in the managerial systems, personnel policy, and principles for participation, training policies and quality management of the undertaking.

How we work

Fairfood is pushing companies to ensure positive change in the lives of workers by implementing safe and healthy working conditions, as well as by asking governments to put in place policies and practices that strictly regulate companies. We do this through the following methods:

  • Documenting and exposing the deplorable working conditions of workers that have led to chronic diseases and other vulnerable social conditions. We use these as proof and leverage to challenge companies to change their unfair practices;
  • Engaging with key companies to discuss how they can improve their operations;
  • Promoting key safe and healthy work standards which are embodied in the ILO and in the UN;
  • Engaging with (inter)national government officials in Europe and Central America in order to push for stronger regulations and compliance among companies.