The ILO Occupational Health Services Convention (No. 161) defines ‘occupational health services (OHS)’ as services entrusted with essentially preventive functions and responsible for advising the employer, the workers and their representatives in the undertaking on the requirements for establishing and maintaining a safe and healthy working environment which will facilitate optimal physical and mental health in relation to work and the adaptation of work to the capabilities of workers in the light of their state of physical and mental health.
The so-called work environment reform which took place in most of the industrialised countries in the 1970s and 1980s saw the production of important international instruments and guidelines. The developing and newly industrialised countries contain approximately 8 out of 10 of the world’s workers, however no more than 5% to 10% of this working population has access to adequate OHS. The Seoul Statement on the develpoment of OHS for all was adopted at the 31 st ICOH Seoul Congress held in 2015. They reflected the responses of occupational health policies to the new needs of working life, and the achievement of an international consensus on the development of OHS.
The author surveyed with a quentionaire to some Latin American countries and reviewed the ILO publication to follow the implentaton of the Seoul Statement. According to the survey, the need for effective occupational health services is growing rather than decreasing. The ILO instruments on occupational health services and the parallel WHO strategies provide a valid basis for the significant development of OHS, and should be used by each country as it sets policy objectives to ensure the health and safety of workers in the country.