The construction industry worldwide is a USD 3 trillion giant, accounting for around 10 per cent of the world's Gross Domestic Product and employing 180 million people, or 7 per cent of global employment. It is also responsible for far more than its share of occupational accidents and work-related ill-health. International construction union federation BWI has made health and safety a key organizing priority. It argues there is a clear positive "union effect" on health and safety performance.
Construction is a hazardous industry. For almost all key risks - chemicals, dusts, manual handling, physical hazards, and psychosocial hazards - exposures are routine and excessive. Poor welfare facilities compound the hazards. And in developing nations - around 98 per cent of world population growth will occur in developing countries, with some 60 per cent of the world's fastest growing larger cities (750,000 plus) in low income countries - factors such as informal, forced and child labor and an absence of decent laws effectively enforced mean health and safety is a low or non-existent priority.
All those who work should have an expectation of decent work. The concept of "decent work", as used by the International Labor Organization (1), applies to all workers, including those on daily wages and in very temporary, informal employment. Decent work is work that is carried out in a safe physical environment with conditions which respect the rights of workers as defined in national law and international conventions.
In practice, however, decency can be a rare commodity. Worldwide, construction principally offers low status, low paid, short-term, unregistered, informal and hazardous jobs in a highly fragmented industry. Many workers, in particular rural-urban migrants, are faced with exploitative employment practices, hardship and hazards.