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Accidents at Work: The Safety System (3)

The International Labour Office

The International Labour Organisation (“the ILO”) is the oldest part of the structure. It was founded in 1919 as part of the League of Nations. In 1945 the League of Nations was wound up and the ILO became a sub-agency of the UN. It has its Headquarters in Geneva, in Switzerland and its website HERE (and HERE [for Safety at Work])

In 1959 the ILO established a unit known as ILO-CIS (from it’s French name, Centre International d’Informations de Sécurité et de Santé au Travail) to provide an international source of information on work-related accidents and diseases and the means of preventing them. CIS collects data world wide on the prevention of occupational hazards and distributes it at international level. Many member states of the United Nations have permanent CIS units in their national systems of occupational health and safety. Ireland’s unit is in the Dept. of Labour . These national units send all significant literature on occupational health and safety published in their countries, which is then translated by CIS and entered into the list of publications available for purchase in Geneva. CIS receives approx. 40,000 documents each year under this scheme, of which over 2,000 are entered into the database. Purchases may be made by post or through designated sales agents around the world.

The subjects covered include;

• recognition, evaluation and control of hazards in all industries;

• conditions of work;

• ergonomics;

• occupational medicine;

• toxicology;

• epidemiology;

• industrial safety;

• machine guarding.

Data is available in written form or through computer on-line access HERE. CIS has established a system of Chemical Information  Sheets (IRCIS) furnishing information in the form of “Material Safety Data Sheets “. There are 70,000 of these already available. Bibliographies on particulars topics are regularly published and may be specially requested on a particular topic for a fee. The full text of a publication and copies of the original may be obtained by quoting a CIS abstract number.

CIS  publish a bimonthly bulletin “Safety and Health at Work” detailing news and developments in occupational health and safety world wide.

The CIS database  is also available on CD-ROM. The compact discs or disc contain up to 600 million characters each. Using a read-only drive unit and a personal computer very substantial sections of the CIS database may be directly accessed on the compact discs.

Ireland was a member of the League of Nations, of which the International Labour Organisation formed part. As an International person, the League of Nations, and later the United Nations, promoted a system of International Conventions. The League had as one of its principles that “universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice”. From its inception, therefore, the ILO promoted conventions intended to improve working conditions. In 1919, the year of its founding the following conventions were opened for signature.

• Unemployment 1919

• Night Work (Women) 1919

• Minimum Age (Industry) 1919

• Night Work of Young Persons (Industry) 1919

Ireland has ratified these Conventions and many more up to the present day. The ILO also has a system of Recommendations, more numerous than the Conventions and Ireland has adopted many of these also. Having so ratified these conventions, Ireland is, under international law, bound to observe their terms and where required, take positive steps to implement them. Of timely relevance is the “Employment Relationship Recommendation, 2006 (No. 198)” which recites;

“Members should formulate and apply a national policy for reviewing at appropriate intervals and, if necessary, clarifying and adapting the scope of relevant laws and regulations, in order to guarantee effective protection for workers who perform work in the context of an employment relationship.”


[i] Constitution of the League of Nations