Harnessing Collective Strength to Advance Occupational Safety and Health in the Baltic Sea Region - NDPHS

Harnessing Collective Strength to Advance Occupational Safety and Health in the Baltic Sea Region

9 April, 2024

In 2022, a milestone was achieved in the realm of labor rights and workplace safety when the International Labour Organization (ILO) member States amended their Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work from 1998 to explicitly include “a safe and healthy working environment.” The amendment serves as a stepping stone for advancing prevention worldwide and underscores the pressing need for further action.

The 1998 Declaration has significantly contributed to increasing the number of ratifications of the ILO’s fundamental conventions covering:

  • forced labour;
  • child labour;
  • discrimination;
  • freedom of association;
  • collective bargaining.

This trend could extend to the two newly designated fundamental conventions, namely Convention 155 on Occupational Safety and Health, 1981 (No. 155), and the Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 (No. 187). Among the nine member States of the NDPHS, four have ratified both Conventions 155 and 187, two have ratified either one, while three have not ratified either. A total of 80 ILO member States have ratified Convention No. 155 and 62 Convention No. 187.

The diversity in ratification status underscores the importance of concerted efforts toward fostering safer and healthier workplaces, ultimately contributing to the well-being of workers and the prosperity of societies across the NDPHS partner countries. It is useful to explore actionable strategies that not only would align legislations with international standards but also reflect the unique challenges and opportunities present within the region.

Ratifying ILO conventions signifies a commitment to upholding fundamental labor standards and safeguarding the rights and well-being of workers. By ratifying conventions, countries pledge to abide by internationally recognized principles that promote decent work, social justice, and equitable treatment in the workplace. This commitment is vital for fostering inclusive and sustainable economic development while ensuring that workers’ right to a safe and healthy working environment are protected.


To advance the cause of occupational safety and health across the Baltic Sea region, the Partnership countries could further build on existing cooperation, notably through its dedicated OSH Expert Group allowing countries to share knowledge, resources, and best practices in addressing common challenges. The Expert Group on OSH could potentially work on specific thematic areas of both fundamental conventions No. 155 and No. 187 in view of the shared obligation of the Partnership countries to apply their provisions even if they have not ratified them, notably in view of more stringent reporting obligations[1] under article 22 of the ILO Constitution.

Prior assessment of compliance with the provisions of the fundamental OSH conventions is considered a useful preparatory phase. It provides the foundation for informed decision-making on policy and legislative adjustments. Hence, each member country aspiring to meet the newly established international standards in OSH could undertake a thorough analysis of its OSH legislation and reaffirm the adequacy of its regulatory frameworks, considering the profound changes occurring in the world of work. This process would entail evaluating their effectiveness in safeguarding workers’ safety, health, and well-being, and addressing any identified shortcomings to ensure alignment with the requirements set forth in the conventions.


Partner countries that have not yet ratified either of these conventions could perhaps benefit from the experience of countries that have already ratified and are applying them in law and practice. Through dedicated collaborative efforts within the Expert Group, member countries have the potential to significantly advance the larger Baltic Sea region agenda for occupational safety and health, ultimately benefiting workers, employers, and societies altogether. This approach would allow for the establishment of a comprehensive and shared understanding of existing laws and regulations from which member countries could embark on a journey of thematic benchmarking, identifying distinctive policy approaches, and fostering collaboration for innovation.

Priority topics could include:

  • the adaptation of system of inspection to the changing world of work;
  • the provision of guidance and information in the context of digitalization;
  • protocols to tackle situations presenting imminent and serious danger, including psychosocial risks, harassment, and violence at work;
  • the transposition of national OSH policies into action at workplace levels understood that the very concept of workplace is changing;
  • measures to ensure effective communication, cooperation, and collaboration between employers and workers, both on-site and remotely;
  • tracking trends from the recording and notification of occupational accidents, diseases, and other relevant incidents.

Pursuing purposeful regional knowledge-sharing and the development of common approaches to shared challenges hold potential for harnessing the collective strength of the NDPHS and driving continual improvement in OSH policies and practices. It would serve mutual learning while enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of existing laws and regulations. By working together on preparing for the ratification and effective application of the two fundamental conventions, the Partnership countries could share a common understanding of the current legislative landscape in OSH which in turn would allow charting the course for continuous progress in OSH policies and practices within the Baltic Sea region.


[1] https://www.ilo.org/gb/GBSessions/GB347/lils/WCMS_873218/lang–en/index.htm, accessed 19 March 2024.


Text: Claude Donald Loiselle, NDPHS Expert Group on OSH, International Labour Organization HQ Geneva

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