Promoting health in the workplace as a social right (1919-1940)?

Social justice for all?
By Isabelle Lespinet-Moret

As a founding principle of social justice and the universality of labour-related social rights, and to improve working conditions and preserve workers’ health, the International Labour Office (ILO) addresses industrial hygiene, work-related illnesses, work accidents and exposure to industrial hazards for certain categories of the workforce. Workers’ health is viewed as a common good that the ILO must defend by prevention and reparation. The ILO’s policy is to make this a social right, just like social security, reducing working hours or the freedom to form a union. Workers’ and unions’ demands for a right to health converge with the concerns of the social reformist camp, which is worried about the risks of breakdown of the social body, but they face the economic interests of industry in a context of reconstruction, competition, growth and crisis. The issue must be resolved through political compromise.

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