What is OSH literacy?

Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) is an essential life-skill literacy that can be described as: The degree to which individuals have the functional capacity to find and apply the OSH information and services needed to eliminate or reduce risk.*

OSH literacy is an umbrella term which covers a range of safety and health related subjects: fire, electrical, chemicals, health, traffic etc., which all use an internationally standardized literacy system composed of signs, signals, symbols and jargon to communicate information designed to keep us safe, examples can be found, ‘wherever there are people, (ISO)‘*  

Why is OSH literacy important?

  • Poor communications and human factors cause between 80- 90% of global accidents in, [and out of], the workplace, (Shuen Y. S, Rollah,S, 2019)
  • The ILO estimates that some 2.3 million women and men around the world succumb to work-related accidents or diseases every year; this corresponds to over 6000 deaths every single day. Worldwide, there are around 340 million occupational accidents and 160 million victims of work-related illnesses annually, (ILO, retrieved August 2022).
  • Globally more than 1600 children and adolescents below the age of 19-years die every day from preventable injuries, (UNICEF, 2022).
  • Injuries are the leading cause of death among those aged 5 – 19 years, and five out of six of these deaths occur in low and middle-income countries (ibid)
  • Every year tens of millions more children and young people worldwide are taken to hospitals with injuries that often leave them with life-long disabilities, (ibid).
  • The number of children in child labour has risen to 160 million worldwide – an increase of 8.4 million children in the last four years – with millions more at risk due to the impacts of COVID-19, according to a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF.
  • Children are particularly vulnerable to injuries and need special consideration to safeguard their rights to health and safe environments free from injury, (UNICEF,10 June 2021).
  • The ILO estimates there were 24.9 million victims of human trafficking around the world. The report uses the term “forced labour” to describe the forms of exploitation commonly referred to as human trafficking in the United States and other nations. The 24.9 million figure includes both sex trafficking, or commercial sexual exploitation, and forced labor exploitation, both in the private sector and state-imposed, (Human Trafficking Institute, Jan 12, 2022)
  • Low health literacy was the top predictor of mortality after smoking, also surpassing income and years of education, the study showed, (Marla, 2007). 

Consider the benefits of OSH literacy prior to and during the Covid-19. UNESCO and other bodies are urgently seeking solutions to ‘fill the gap.’

June 20th, 2023: The International Standards Organization (ISO) published its Plain Language Guidelines, 24495, which we have been campaigning for many years.  The Guidelines apply across ‘all languages and industries’ as does OSH. The ISO Plain Language Guidelines, 24495, are final proof positive that OSH is a literacy that can be taught and measured from entry-level to advanced. 

June 2023: Wikipedia published a page on OSH literacy:                             Occupational Safety and Health Literacy – Wikipedia

June 06th, 2022: The International Labor Organisation (ILO) amended its Four (4) Fundamental Rights at Work to include OSH, now the fifth (5th).

September 2022: IOSH Official Educational Policy Statement: 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 educational and advocacy organization. We are a dad and daughter duo from Ireland who are 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 voluntary and run on a part-time basis (About Us).  However, we are very active on a number of fronts and work 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.


a worker dies from a work-related accident or disease Every 15 Seconds


workers have a work-related accident Every 15 Seconds

OSH Literacy.org is the world’s ONLY dedicated OSH organisation specifically focused on raising awareness and best practice in the field of OSH communications and training

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