Health Worker Safety is a Priority for Patient Safety

The importance of health and social care workers has come to be universally recognised as the lead in the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic

World Patient Safety Day (WPSD) 2020 will be marked globally on 17 September, with the theme Health Worker Safety, Priority for Patient Safety. The importance of health and social care workers has come to be universally recognised as the lead in the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They have been applauded by governments, communities, and persons citizens, but they deserve more than that. Health workers’ safety and wellbeing must be the top priority.

Every worker’s occupational safety and health must be safeguarded as a labour right. In the health sector this becomes exceedingly important because health worker safety is necessary to ensure patient safety and thus contribute significantly to the wellbeing of society as a whole.


PSI Health and Social Sector Officer Baba Aye outlines why Patient safety and safe workspaces are deeply linked and how Covid is exposing the vital need for increased resorucing and staffing for PUBLIC health systems.

Patient Safety Day 2020 - Safe Workers Save Lives!

PSI and its affiliates have always upheld health worker safety in the interests of workers and patients. At the launch of the PSI Right to Health global campaign in 2016, we emphasized this point, stressing that when we demand improved working environment in health facilities, we are “primarily advocating for the rights of patients to effective, safe and quality care”

As the organic link between health worker safety and patient safety became sharply revealed by the global health emergency, PSI launched a Safe Workers Save Lives campaign in March. This has served to advocate for government action to address the situation.

Much more than applause is now necessary

The first step to prioritising health worker safety is ensuring safe and effective staffing. Without it, health workers suffer burnout, to the detriment of patient safety. The 70th World Health Assembly noted there would be a shortfall of 18 million health workers by 2030 if drastic action is not taken urgently. It is time for governments across the world to massively invest in the training and recruitment of health workers.

Decent work is another vital aspect of the health sector. This requires adequate provision of personal protective equipment and other workplace safety measures. Taking the agenda for health worker safety forward requires concerted social dialogue between governments, management and workers’ unions.

PSI affiliates have commenced advocacy for the World Patient Safety Day, speaking up loudly and clearly for health worker safety and reaching out to communities, patients’ forums and civil society. Some affiliate actions are the launch of a “Campaign for Safety and Life” by the Korean Health and Medical Union, and a national “Safe Workers Save Lives” campaign by health sector unions in Nigeria.

Health and social sector affiliates across the world are all encouraged to take action on 17 September and highlight the importance of health worker safety. You could: write an article on your website or send one to a local newspaper; take a picture with a poster on the theme “health worker safety, priority for patient safety”; light up (parts of) your union office or workplace in orange and take pictures of this – and send these to the PSI head office:,

You are also invited to join a WHO Global Virtual Event on 17 September at 14:00-17:00 CEST. The event which is entitled “One world: Global solidarity for health worker safety and patient safety”, is to commemorate the WPSD and will feature testimonials including from PSI.

Our campaign for health worker safety and wellbeing will continue beyond the WPSD 2020. We must all stand up today for patient safety by speaking up for health workers safety and build the Safe Workers Save Lives PSI campaign.

Actions from affiliates around the world

Allied Health Professionals Federation (BAHPF), Bangladesh

Bangladesh Women Welfare Workers Union (BWWWU), Bangladesh

Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft (Ver.di), Germany

News article: World Day of Patient Safety: To ensure good care, ver.di calls on the federal government to set personnel standards in nursing care and care for the elderly (in German)