Occupational Safety & Health - Overview of deliverables
Vision Statement and Principles
Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) is of fundamental importance to all staff and non-staff personnel wherever they operate. It engages organizations to identify and manage risks to staff and non-staff personnel associated with the commitment to “stay and deliver”. The Task Force presented the following vision statement, encompassing OSH aspirational goals:
“The United Nations, in fulfilling its organizational mandates, aims to provide a healthy, safe and respectful working environment that promotes greater accountability, efficiency and commitment of its workforce.”
The “Core Principles for a healthier, safer and more respectful UN workplace” (“Core Principles”) provide a working guide to articulate a system-wide coherent and holistic approach throughout the UN system in all aspects of its mandate, including safety and security, psychosocial support, health, human resources and administrative support. The Core Principles are consistent with several other entities, including non-UN international organizations and NGOs, which have developed similar guidelines, and do not create additional legal obligations that have not been approved by the respective governing bodies of the UN entities. Rather, they are overarching and value-based, and communicate the UN system’s vision through a holistic, systems and risk management approach.
- Risk awareness and transparency - Organizations are proactive in providing information and are open to engagement, input and feedback from UN personnel.
- Effective occupational safety, health and security management - Shared engagement and responsibility of the Organization and its workforce to promote and sustain safety, security, health and well-being of staff and non-staff personnel as far as it is reasonably practicable.
- Inclusion and respect for dignity - Organizations treat staff and non-staff personnel in good faith, with due consideration for individual circumstances, respecting and preserving dignity and diversity.
- Caring for consequences of risk - Caring for those who have been adversely affected or impacted by hazardous events associated with their work with the United Nations.
- Accountability at all levels - Creating a just culture that supports effective leadership and individual accountability.
OSH Framework for Affiliate/Standby/non-UN personnel
The Task Force conducted a review of the categories of non-staff personnel at the UN, in consultation with the relevant networks, including Human Resources, Legal, and Procurement Network, and for the purposes of this work chose to focus on the following categorization of personnel, based on the contractual status that the personnel have with the UN organizations12. Uniformed personnel are not included, however, the HLCM may wish to consider reviewing this category in the future.
- CATEGORY 1 (affiliate personnel): individuals with direct contractual relationship with the organizations, including but not limited to consultants, individual contractors, interns, UN Volunteers13, fellows, UNOPS contractors (e.g. Local Individual Contractors (LICAs) and International Individual Contractors (IICAs)) etc.;
- CATEGORY 2 (standby personnel): individuals deployed from entities in standby partnership arrangement with UN organizations, including Government-provided personnel (GPP) and those on non-reimbursable loan agreement (NRLA);
- CATEGORY 3 (non-UN personnel): individuals with indirect relationship with the organizations through their employers, such as third party and implementing partner personnel.
UN System Mental Health Strategy
During its 34th session in September 2017, the HLCM discussed and approved the Mental Health and Well-Being Strategy, a system-wide five-year action plan to ensure that services and support for mental health and well-being are available and accessible for all staff members, including locally-recruited staff. An interagency, cross functional Implementation Board was established in October 2018 with the purpose of ensuring strategic oversight and providing support to successful and practical operational implementation of the HLCM-approved UN system Workplace Mental Health and Well-Being Strategy, over the five-year period (2018-2023).
The Strategy is being implemented through the following priority areas:
- Resource and distribute psychosocial support and mental health services.
- Implement stigma reduction and mental health promotion approaches.
- Create systems to enable and oversee the safety and quality of psychosocial support programmes.
- Initiate a suite of prevention interventions, establish a workplace well-being programme and complete a review of United Nations Health (v) Insurance provision, and United Nations social protection schemes.
- Complete a multidisciplinary workforce development plan.
Mandatory Health Support Elements (MHSE)
Tools and guidelines: Ensuring the survival of an acute life threatening medical event is a core element of OSH and a recurring concern for personnel in high-risk locations. One of the main issues is the lack of consistency in defining necessary health support and the attendant quality standards, including time standards. The UN Medical Directors (UNMD), thus developed a methodology for Health Risk Analysis (Duty Station Health Risk Assessment, DS-HRA), based on the UN Enterprise Risk Management Framework, which identifies six mandatory health support elements as well as a tool for assessing the impact and likelihood of context specific issues.
The mandatory health support elements (MHSE) are the minimum health support standards that must be available to personnel at every duty station irrespective of the risk assessment. Having the mandatory health support elements in place will also provide significant mitigation of risks identified during the assessment.
Duty Station Health Risk Assessments (DS-HRA) and Health Support Plans
A Duty Station Health Risk Assessment (DS-HRA) is a core element of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) to prevent or reduce occupation related injuries, illness, and death of the United Nations personal. The purpose of a HRA in a duty station is to identify the hazards, evaluate the risks and assess the measures already in place and to be put in place, to best prevent and mitigate these risks with the final aim of optimizing the health and safety of the UN employees in the context of the Duty of care responsibility that the UN organization bears towards its personnel. The outcomes of the assessment build the basis for the health support plan suggesting risk mitigation measures for the duty station.
Humanitarian Booking Hub
As of July 2019, the Humanitarian Booking Hub developed by WFP and UNHCR, which represents the largest UN service offering secure and safe accommodation to the humanitarian community, has been adopted by five UN organizations: WFP, UNHCR, UNICEF, IOM and UNFPA, with more considering to join. This represents more than 230 guesthouses in deep field locations of over 30 countries. In addition, the Humanitarian Hub hosts, in collaboration with UNDSS, platforms where UN staff and non-staff personnel can link to the Electronic Travel Advisory (eTA), the TRIP security clearance site and the updated list of UNDSS-listed hotels in selected high-risk areas.
UN Living and Working Standards
There is a wide disparity among the UN organizations with regards to working and living conditions/facilities. In many locations, poor living and working conditions add to the stress of serving in high-risk locations e.g. there is lack of privacy from sharing rooms in some locations whereas in other locations, the lack of common space does not allow personnel to de-stress and relax. In addition, in high-risk locations, personnel spend disproportionate amount of time in accommodation facilities with no access to external recreational activities, for security reasons.
Therefore, the standards developed by the Task Force serve as the UN minimum working and living standards that are applied consistently system-wide. With the implementation of the standards, personnel is able to benefit from decent working and living conditions, which is especially important in high-risk locations, where freedom of movement is restricted. This alsos build and contributes to the resilience and psychosocial wellbeing of personnel, hence leading to better functioning teams that can stay and deliver.
Terms of Reference and Standard Operating Procedures for Regional Areas of Care (RAC)
The RAC concept was established for countries where the quality and breadth of medical facilities prevent local staff and covered family members from accessing quality and adequate health care without the need for a UN-approved medical evacuation. An approved RAC allows reimbursement under the Medical Insurance Plan - the health insurance scheme for the benefit of locally recruited General Service and National Officer active staff members and eligible former staff members, and their eligible family members serving at designated duty stations - based on the reasonable and customary costs in the designated country where the service is provided and not on the country of the staff member’s duty station.
The Medical Insurance Plan (MIP) Committee developed the Terms of Reference and Standard Operating Procedures RACs. The developed ToR and SOP further enhance the organizations’ ability to have a standardized method to approve RACs in areas where needs for medical services are inadequately addressed in the local environment.
From the fact-finding missions of the Task Force, it became clear that many personnel and managers did not know what to expect in the field. Some organizations noted that there was fear amongst personnel about deployment to high-risk locations, which was aggravated by the varied pre-deployment assistance between agencies. The Task Force, therefore, developed a comprehensive pre-deployment package for personnel and their families including a system-wide resilience briefing. The predeployment package, entailing technical input from medical, security, psychosocial and human resources experts, enables personnel and their families to have access to up-to-date information, which helps them to make informed decisions about deployment.
Guideline on connectivity solutions (bandwidth)
Limited bandwidth impedes the capacity of personnel in high-risk locations to access services that require connectivity. Tele-health services, for example, are key in improving mandatory health support elements, which feeds into the health support planning for the duty station and the implementation of the mental health strategy. In addition, it is important for personnel in isolated locations to connect with their families. Therefore, the Task Force prepared a technical document indicating the scenarios in which robust communications are needed in high-risk environments and the graduated bandwidth needs in relation to different situations and the number of personnel. This serves as a reference for organizations in their procurement.