Tuesday, September 27, 2005

ILO: 2.2 Million Die Each Year of Work-related Accidents and Diseases

The International Labor Organization reports that over 2.2 million workers die each year of work-related accidents and injuries -- and that number may be significantly underestimated.
While the number of work-related illnesses and deaths has lessened somewhat in the industrialized countries, the ILO report said the number of accidents - in particular fatal accidents - appear to be increasing, particularly in some Asian countries due to poor reporting, rapid development and strong competitive pressures of globalization.

"Occupational safety and health is vital to the dignity of work", said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. "Still, every day, on average, some 5,000 or more women and men around the world lose their lives because of work-related accidents and illness. Decent Work must be safe work, and we are a long way from achieving that goal."

What's more, the ILO report, entitled Decent Work - Safe Work, ILO Introductory Report to the XVIIth World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, Orlando, USA, also warns that work-related malaria and other communicable diseases as well as cancers caused by hazardous substances are taking a huge toll, mostly in the developing world. The majority of the global workforce lacks legal or preventive safety or health measures, accident or illness compensation and has no access to occupational health services.
Underestimating workplace injuries and fatalities is critical, particularly in developing countries:
The ILO report said reporting systems and coverage of occupational safety and health in many developing countries are poor and in some cases deteriorating. For example, India reports 222 fatal accidents while the Czech Republic, which has a working population of about 1 per cent of India, reports 231, the ILO said, adding that it has estimated the true number of fatal accidents in India at 40,000. The report said such statistics suggested that only a fraction of the real toll of work-related death and disease is covered in a number of developing countries.
The ILO also reports that:
  • Hazardous substances cause the deaths of an estimated 440,000 workers each year
  • While work-related diseases are the main problem in industrialized countries, accident hazards are more prevalent in the developing economies where workers are frequently dying in mishaps that occur in such sectors as mining, construction and agriculture. In the industrialized countries
  • Younger workers (age 15-24) are more likely to suffer non-fatal occupational accidents than their older colleagues
  • Workers over the age of 55 appear to be more likely to suffer fatal accidents and ill-health than others.
  • Women suffer much more than men when it comes to work-related communicable diseases, such as agriculture-related malaria and bacterial and viral infections as well as musculo-skeletal disorders.
  • Men tend to die as a result of accidents, lung diseases and work-related cancers, such as those caused by asbestos.
  • Newly emerging problems such as psychosocial factors, violence, the effects of alcohol and drugs, stress, smoking and HIV/AIDS are rapidly leading to increased morbidity and mortality worldwide.
  • Most workers in the world are not covered by legal preventive measures and will never receive compensation in case of accidents and diseases and most have never seen an occupational doctor or a labour inspector.
  • This year, some 115 countries organized numerous national activities on 28 April to mark World Day for Safety and Health at Work which was launched by the ILO to build on the original trade union observance of this day as the International Day for the Commemoration of Dead and Injured Workers.