The role of occupational safety and health in the implementation of the socio-economic recovery program in the post-COVID-19 period

The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on development goals in Vietnam From 2020 until now, the COVID-19 pandemic has become complicated, unpredictable and prolonged, seriously affecting all aspects of social life from health and life of all classes of people to production and business activities of enterprises.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a comprehensive impact on the economy of Vietnam and the world, heavily affecting many areas of social life and the ability to implement socio-economic development goals, targets and tasks. It has increased the number of people suffering from depression and anxiety disorders by nearly a third in more than 200 countries around the world. Mental health disorders increase the risk of other illnesses and suicide. In addition, the labor intensity is high due to the level of competition is getting fiercier. All of that entails the possibility of increasing the risk of occupational accidents and diseases if the occupational safety and health at work are not well done.

Statistics from the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs show that the number of serious accidents in the period 2011-2021 is constantly increasing. On the other hand, with the gradually extensive integration process, Vietnam must strictly abide by labor standards, including occupational safety and health standards of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and in new-generation free trade agreements. Some countries use occupational safety and health standards as a technical barrier to Vietnamese goods imported into their country, threatening the continuity of the supply chain of goods in trading, as well as investment capital to and from large and quality consumer and capital markets in the world.

Objectives and tasks of occupational safety and health work

In that context, Vietnam has issued many unprecedented guidelines and policies to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic, ensure safe production, socio-economic recovery and development, commence "dual-target" strategy with the top priority being taking care of and protecting the health and lives of the people, and making the best efforts to ensure production and business activities.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic until now, the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor (VGCL) has issued a number of policies to support union members and employees facing difficulties due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to promptly support union members, workers, and medical staff to strengthen the frontline against the pandemic and aiding businesses. Although the pandemic situation has calmed down and stabilized at present, taking care of life and ensuring occupational safety and health for trade union members and employees is still the top priority of the VGCL, thereby contributing to advising and proposing solutions to ensure occupational safety and health, and social security in the process of implementing the Government's economic recovery program in the post-pandemic period.

Although many efforts were made and results achieved, the OSH work still has many risks and challenges. In the process of implementing programs and solutions to restore socio-economic development, the posed problems must be concurrent with programs and solutions to ensure workers, resources to decide the development process can be deployed in a safe and constantly improved environment, so that employees can work with peace of mind, improve labor productivity, contribute to the stable development of the business, economic recovery and sustainable development of the country.

In order to contribute to ensuring the effectiveness and sustainability of the Government's socio-economic recovery and development program, urgent issues of OSH and health care for workers that need to be addressed in the period of 2021 - 2025 include: Preventing an increase in occupational accidents, especially serious accidents that kill many people in the fields of construction, mining, chemicals, and petrochemicals; strengthening supervision of working environment pollution, gradually improving working conditions, taking care of and improving workers' health, building OSH culture, improving social responsibility of businesses, especially those operating in the field of export, etc. In fact, only by being able to work in a safe environment, can employees feel secure to work, improve labor productivity, contribute to the stable development of enterprises and economic recovery and sustainable development of the country.

Scientific and technological tasks on occupational safety and health with a vision to 2030

In general and in the long term, the science and technology tasks on OSH and workers health care are building technology platforms, innovating, digitizing OSH activities, health care, consulting and providing services; research focusing on management solutions, building "Safety Model"; consulting on the application of advanced management system standards and new safety management models such as quantitative risk assessment, development of safety audit services; change the administration of the Occupational Accident and Disease Insurance Fund in the direction of investment in research and application of solutions to OSH, primary health care for employees and occupational rehabilitation; perfecting the system of standards and regulations of Vietnam in accordance with the new situation and speeding up the harmonization with international standards; technological solutions to monitor safety for technological systems and equipment with strict requirements on OSH, pollution of the working environment by automatic and digitalization technology; research and add new occupational diseases to the list of occupational diseases, conduct an overview and in-depth study on occupational psychology, mental health, especially psychosocial factors and mental health of employees in the workplace work, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic; building a database of cases, mental health care for employees, creating motivation for them in the context of the pandemic. Focus on assessing, anticipating and preparing for the challenges and opportunities that AI technology will bring to the filed of OSH. The scientific basis and practical orientation for the work of ensuring OSH and environmental protection in the new period should be based on the evolution of the working conditions, new risks in health and occupational diseases that have not been studied, evalluated and predicted sufficiently in the previous development stage.

Up to now, the OSH legal system has been promulgated extensively, meeting the requirements of management and implementation organization. However, industrialization and modernization also generate new dangerous and toxic factors that lead to employees having to work in conditions with risks of safety loss; the compliance with the law on OSH of most enterprises is still weak, especially in the small and medium-sized enterprises, the informal sector, agricultural production, craft villages, including enterprises and facilities located in the supply chains of labor-intensive industries. Along with the implementation of the socio-economic recovery program after the COVID-19 pandemic, constantly improving the productivity, quality and efficiency of production and business of enterprises, it is always necessary to attach importance to OSH work to be able to control hazards and risks, minimize occupational accidents and diseases that may occur in the process of reproduction, contributing to the sustainable development of enterprises and the social economy.

Dr. Nguyen Anh Tho

Acting Director General of

Vietnam National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health