Inter-regional workshop on occupational safety and health in agriculture, 20 May 2002

The Inter-regional Workshop on Occupational safety and Health in Agriculture was held on May 13–16, 2002 in Damascus in collaboration with the international Labor organization, and the ministry of social affairs and labor, Syria and the Arab Labor Organization.

In a statement to Arabic News (, senior occupational safety and health specialist at the International Labor Organization ILO Nabil Watfa said this is a sub- regional workshop on occupational safety and health in Agriculture held by the International Labor Organization ILO in cooperation with the Ministry of Social affairs and labor in Syria. It is attended by government participants from 12 countries and from workers and employees organizations.

Watfa added that this event is important because it is held soon after the adoption of the International Labor Conference of the safety and health on agriculture Convention no. 184 for the year 2001. He added that it is also important because Syria started intensive activity in industrial safety and health in Agriculture since 1980s. He said that the Syrian General Organization exploitation of the Euphrates Basin project implemented an occupational safety and health projects in the safety of agriculture. He said that the project managed to exploit safety and health project at the organization which is now functioning and takes care of the safety and health of agricultural workers including men, women and children. This is particularly important because agriculture is regarded as the most hazardous occupation which is responsible for 170,000 deaths annually world-wide.

The seminar is aimed at high level government policy makers and officials in charge of legislation, regulation and control of the safety and health aspect of this industry and those who are directly involved in Occupational safety and Health in ministries of labor, Health and agriculture.

The general objective of the workshop was the promotion of the recent ILO instruments in this field The seminar drew on national experiences and used the ILO instruments, namely the new convention which is expected to be adopted by the ILO in June 2001 as a model.

It is worthy mentioning here that agriculture is one of the world's most dangerous occupations. Its fatal accident rate is double the average for all other occupations in a several countries. It is estimated that out of a total of 335,000 fatal workplace accidents worldwide, close to 170,000 deaths occur among agricultural workers.

Agricultural hazards are attributed to a number of factors. These include exposure to the extensive use of agrochemical amongst which are highly toxic pesticides, fertilizers, veterinary products, allergenic agents and carcinogenic substances. Accidents due to the use of agricultural machinery and implements are also very common. Exposure to infections and parasitic diseases are also known, and so is the exposure to extreme temperatures conditions such as heat, cold and humidity; as well as noise and vibration. Ergonomics problems are frequent, and contact with poisonous animals and insect is also common.

An estimated 1.3 billion workers are engaged in agricultural production world wide, representing half of the total world labor force. Close to 60% of those workers are found in Asia which is the most densely populated region. Almost a 70% of the workforce in agriculture consists of women and child workers in some countries.

Among other issues, the seminar covered topics on overview agricultural hazards; review of legislation; ILO Convention of OSH in agriculture; National models and experiences from a selected number of countries; Inter-ministerial co-ordination at the national level; Role of employees in promoting OSH in agriculture; role of workers in promoting OSH in agriculture and the national action plans of each of the participating countries.