The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has urged governments and private sector players to take seriously issues of labour protection in agricultural and forestry sectors of their economies.
The campaign according to Jonas Cedergren of the FAO Forestry Office, is coming on the heels of a consensus reached at the 6th International Forest Engineering Conference in New Zealand that workers’ protection was imperative considering the risks established to be associated with their activities.
Cedergren said the organization was concerned about reducing the health risks facing workers and has mapped out strategies to improve the condition.
“On-the-job risk factors are well known and many for forestry and agricultural workers; yet a lot more have to be done to reduce and control them,’’ he said.
According to the FAO, more than three-quarters of the world’s poor lived in rural areas, where many people depended on agriculture, including fisheries and forestry, to earn a living.
A lot of people engage in farming and forestry in the tropical or arid climates of sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific where year-round temperatures tended to be high and could rise further as a result of climate change.
Due to the difficult and dangerous dimension of forestry jobs, she urged government policymakers and those in managerial positions to create a strong and harmonised framework for reporting injuries, accidents, and deaths in forestry.
“While workers must take their own initiatives, managers must assure that the workers are able to and encouraged to do so. Coping mechanisms cannot be fully decentralised to the employees,” she added.
Cedergren underscored the need to focus safety efforts, not only on work sites but also in preparatory phases, because some case studies found that many farmers began their work already dehydrated, often due to the lack of shade and other facilities.
“Heat stress occurs when the body is unable to dissipate body heat sufficiently to the surroundings, and this becomes particularly challenging when the air temperature is above that of the skin, or around 33.7 degrees Celsius.
“At that point, perspiration becomes a crucial tool, posing particular risks to children and women whose sweat glands tend to be less effective,’’ she said.
She said that FAO was always reminding employers and workers to ingest adequate litres of water and salt every day, as sweating could trigger great loss of fluids from the body.