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Statements

Statement of Iceland on toxic substances and hazardous waste

Andri Júlíusson, counsellor, delivered today a statement on the dangers posed to workers handling toxic substances. Iceland emphasized that all states have the responsibility to protect worker’s health and live up to international obligations and that this was not an issue that should divide states but unite them in searching for solutions. 

 

39th session of the Human Rights Council

Item 3

Hazardous wastes

12 September 2018

Delivered by Iceland

Thank you Mr. Vice-President

Every worker wants to, and has the right to be safe at work, free from harm and exposure to toxic substances. Unfortunately, millions of workers do not enjoy this right as clearly displayed in the report by the special rapporteur, and we thank him for his work.

States have the responsibility to protect worker’s health and live up to international obligations. Companies, economic actors, investors, regional and local governments are also responsible for the conditions of workers. Today, no one can hide behind lack of information about what substances used in industry and manufacturing can cause illness, disability or premature death.

Some argue that preventive action and using alternative materials is too expensive or too cumbersome! Such arguments are not to be accepted, never should short term profit, at the cost of human health or human lives, be tolerated.

States must rise above such behaviour and take immediate action to improve the grave situation. To do so may be challenging, however, assistance and guidance from competent international organisations is readily available, e.g. from WHO and ILO.

Protecting our workers from toxics is not a geopolitical issue – this is one of the rare issues at our table that surely should unite us and give us a common undisputed goal. That is, to ensure respect for basic human rights of workers, to create a safe working environment for all and by doing so cutting both financial and societal losses caused by the current situation.

Thank you.

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