The International labour Organisation (ILO) has on its agenda for the next International Labour Conference a standard-setting item on protection against biological hazards.
The ILO has prepared a report containing a questionnaire regarding the form and content the new labour standard should take.
The ACTU have responded to the questionnaire and are joining unions around the world in calling for a Convention (a legally binding treaty subject to ratification by ILO Member States), to be supplemented by non-binding guidelines, noting:
The lack of clear guidance on the management of biological hazards in the workplace is a major gap in our international regulatory framework. This issue has been bought into sharp focus over the last few years in our experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic, however it is not a new issue.
An international instrument has a key role to play in improving understanding of what is required in the management of biological hazards in the world of work and setting a benchmark to ensure that workers internationally are protected from harm arising from workplace exposure.
All health impacts associated with exposure to biological hazards at work, not just infections, should be within the scope of a new ILO Convention on Biological Hazards in the Working Environment and any associated recommendations, codes and guidance.
Its provisions should apply to all workers. Measures should include employment protection for those whose health is impacted by biological hazards at work or whose employment is affected by actions to address biological risks at work.