The seminar “finding new solutions to intractable problems: Approaches to occupational health & safety in the informal economy, and the extractives industry” took place on February 20th at the National Institute of Occupational Health, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The NIOH co-hosted this event with WIEGO.
The seminar was based on presentations from the editors of two special editions of the journal New Solutions: A Journal of Occupational & Environmental Health Policy. The first special edition was edited by Francie Lund (WIEGO’s Senior Advisor) and Rajen Naidoo (University of KwaZulu-Natal) and looks at advances and innovations in extending Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) to informal workers. The second special edition under discussion was edited by Sophia Kisting (Director, NIOH), and Leslie London (University of Cape Town), and examines developments in OHS in the extractives industry. The discipline and practice of OHS faces several seemingly intractable problems in the 21st century. These challenges apply both to sectors in which occupational health practitioners have long been involved such as the extractives industry, and to newer areas of work such as the informal economy.
Challenges in promoting and regulating OHS are not necessarily the same in these two areas of the economy, but they have in common the fact that OHS practitioners are searching for new ways of approaching very difficult problems. How to address the severe impact of the extractives industry on human health, the environment, and sustainable economies? How to think about extending OHS to informal workers who work outside of employment relationships and often in informal places of work like road sides, landfill sites and inside their own homes? This seminar explored these questions through presentations from leading thinkers in the field.