Africa and Middle East: Asbestos is a serious threat to OHS

BWI Africa and Middle East strengthened its anti-asbestos initiative in the region as a complement to the campaign for the recognition of occupational health and safety as a fundamental workers’ right.

In a virtual meeting of BWI’s Asbestos Network on 18 May, Bernhard Herold from the Solidar Suisse Switzerland, Nigel Davies of CFMWEU-Australia and South Africa OHS expert Warren Manning took turns in sharing their experiences on the campaign to ban the use of asbestos at workplaces. They also discussed the Rotterdam Convention, a multilateral treaty on shared responsibilities on the importation of hazardous chemicals, and its 10th Conference of the Parties (COP) which will be held in Geneva this July. 

BWI said that in preparation for the COP, affiliates in the region must use the asbestos network as a constructive platform to share and learn from each other’s experiences. 

As such, the meeting, which was attended by 62 participants from 20 countries in Africa, Asia Pacific, and Europe, arrived at the decision to intensify national campaigns against asbestos by engaging countries and their national governments.  

A regional committee to steer the campaign was also established which will be chaired by Jane Ragoo from Mauritius. 

“Asbestos is a silent killer of workers. It is a serious health and safety issue that needs urgent attention, especially as we continue asking affiliates around the globe to engage and persuade employers to sign our declaration recognising the importance of OHS,”  BWI Africa and Middle East Regional Representative Crecentia Mofokeng said. 

It has been reported that about 125 million people globally are exposed to asbestos at workplaces. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that 107,000 people who were exposed to asbestos at workplaces die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.