Milestone Achievement in Setting Standards for Biological Hazards Despite Slow Progress

Veronica Black from the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, Australia, reports on the painstakingly slow yet crucial process of setting international standards on biological hazards.

Despite extended nighttime sessions, the committee’s progress has been hindered by significant disagreements and stalling from various groups. However, a major breakthrough has been achieved: the decision to adopt the document as a binding convention, rather than mere recommendations, which marks a significant victory for workers globally.

The convention’s binding nature is critical, ensuring that member countries must adhere to the established standards, thus providing better protection for workers against biological hazards. This achievement is particularly timely, given the heightened awareness of such risks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although many issues remain unresolved and have been bracketed for future discussion, there is a palpable sense of frustration among the majority of participants, including worker representatives and government officials, due to the slow pace. Nonetheless, the commitment to extended sessions reflects the high level of dedication to this essential work.

The coming days are crucial as the committee aims to accelerate progress and resolve outstanding issues. The collective hope is that through collaboration and compromise, a robust and practical convention will be finalized, marking a significant step forward in safeguarding workers' health globally.