Health, Safety and Dignity of Sanitation Workers: An Initial Assessment – ILO+

Health – Sanitation

Health, Safety and Dignity of Sanitation Workers: An Initial Assessment
World Bank Group, World Health Organization, International Labour Organization, Water Aid
November 2019 :: 61 pages
Sanitation workers provide an invaluable service that many of us notice only when confronted with locked, blocked, or filthy toilets; overflowing septic tanks; or beaches contaminated with sewage. These workers are vital to the proper functioning of the sanitation systems that underpin daily life, and many more ae needed to achieve the ambitious agenda of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.

Yet sanitation workers are often invisible and too often subject to conditions that expose them to the worst consequences of poor sanitation: debilitating infections, injuries, social stigma, and even death in their daily work. Workers’ rights need to be recognized; workers need freedom and support to organize as a labor force; and their working conditions need to be improved and progressively formalized to safeguard health and labor rights to ensure decent working conditions, as called for by SDG 8.

The World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO), International Labour Organization (ILO), and WaterAid have joined forces in the year of “no one left behind” to shed light on this neglected issue. This report, the most extensive global exploration of the topic to date, analyzes the problems, explores good practices, and sets out actions to improve the health, safety and dignity of sanitation workers..


14 November 2019 News release
New report exposes horror of working conditions for millions of sanitation workers in the developing world
Millions of sanitation workers in the developing world are forced to work in conditions that endanger their health and lives, and violate their dignity and human rights, according to a report released today.
Sanitation workers provide an essential public service that is key to safeguarding human health. They are often the most marginalized, poor and discriminated against members of society, carrying out their jobs with no equipment, protection or legal rights.

“A fundamental principle of health is “first do no harm”. Sanitation workers make a key contribution to public health around the world – but in so doing, put their own health at risk. This is unacceptable,” said Dr Maria Neira, Director, Department of Public Health and Environment, WHO. “We must improve working conditions for these people and strengthen the sanitation workforce, so we can meet global water and sanitation targets.”

The report on the plight of sanitation workers in the developing world is jointly authored by the International Labour Organization, WaterAid, World Bank and World Health Organization to raise awareness of the de-humanizing working conditions and to push for change. It is the most extensive global study to date on the issue, and part of a growing body of work on sanitation workers…