OSH literacy can be described as: The degree to which individuals have the functional capacity to access, process and utilize the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) information and services needed to eliminate or reduce risk.*
OSH uses a unique literacy system comprised of shapes, colours, symbols and jargon to communicate information designed to keep us safe. This communication system has been standardized by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and is universally accepted and used. Examples can be found in the workplace, public spaces and at home. This communication system constitutes OSH as a literacy in its own right. In this Age-of-Information and multiliteracies, the acquisition of OSH literacy skills is essential to an individual’s long-term health and well-being as well as their social and economic mobility. However, for a number of reasons, not everyone has these skills, yet.
OSH literacy is linked and committed to the United Nations’ Social Development Goals (UN SDGs) 2030, especially SDGs 3, 4, 5 & 8.
We are very happy that IOSH (the world’s largest OSH management organisation) has recognised the importance of OSH literacy in their Official Educational Policy Statement: IOSH believes that promoting OSH in education and lifelong learning is critical to building worldwide awareness of the dimensions and consequences of work-related accidents, injuries and diseases. In this context, there’s a need for OSH education to be expanded to build OSH professional competence and capability. This should also include the improvement of basic OSH literacy training as a strong foundation for life-long learning.
OSH literacy is also the name of our small, non-profit social enterprise. We are a collective of volunteers, (we all have full-time jobs as teachers, trainers, health-care workers and OSH professionals) committed to making a tangible reduction in the unacceptably high numbers of deaths, diseases, injuries and losses which occur globally due to poor OSH communications, especially for at-risk groups. We are the world’s only NGO specifically focused on this area. OSH literacy is active on a number of fronts and works closely with other national and international NGOs, OSH, educational and private organizations to achieve our goal to make OSH information and training Accessible to All.