Work-related deaths on the rise

International Labour Organization report cites poor supervision and lack of government enforcement for increase
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|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 10/28/2005

More than two million people around the world are dying due to work-related injuries and diseases each year, stated a recent report.

“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,” said International Labour Organization director-general Juan Somavia in a statement.

This represents a 10 per cent increase from the ILO’s previous report released in 2002, which was based on data from 1998. The ILO’s most recent report, entitled

Decent Work — Safe Work

, examined data from 2001 and found that while work-related accidents and illnesses are decreasing in the developed world, both are increasing in developing countries.

The report also warns the actual number of deaths might be much higher than the estimate of 2.3 million due to poor reporting and coverage systems in many countries.

India reported only 222 fatal accidents, while the Czech Republic, which has a working population of about one per cent of India, reported 231. The ILO estimated the true number of fatal accidents in India to be about 40,000.

The ILO found that three factors contribute to the rising number of work-related deaths in developing countries:

• Lack of a preventive safety and health culture

• Poor management systems

• Poor supervision and enforcement by government authorities

The report found that hazardous substances cause about 440,000 work-related deaths each year. Asbestos alone kills 100,000 workers every year and in the United Kingdom that number is 3,500 — more than ten times the number of workers killed in accidents in the U.K.

While work-related diseases are the main problem in industrialized nations, accidents are more prevalent in developing countries as industrialized countries export jobs in hazardous industries such as mining, construction and agriculture where accidents are often fatal.

Asia and Latin America are experiencing the greatest increase in fatal accidents, mostly due to poor reporting, rapid development and the strong competitive pressures of globalization.

“The sad truth is that in some parts of the world, many workers will probably die for lack of an adequate safety culture,” said the director of the ILO SafeWork program Jukka Takala in a statement. “This is a heavy price to pay for uncontrolled development.”

According to the ILO, most workers in the world aren’t covered by legal preventive measure and won’t receive compensation in case of accidents and diseases.

Men are at a higher risk of dying during their working years (under age 65), but women suffer more from work-related communicable diseases, psycho-social factors and long-term musculo-skeletal disorders.

Younger workers (age 15-24) are more likely to suffer non-fatal occupational accidents than their older colleagues, while workers over the age of 55 are more likely to suffer fatal accidents and ill-health than others.

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