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ILO: Work-related factors kill nearly 3 million a year
update:November 28,2023
Nov.28, 2023 -- The International Labour Organization (ILO) has underscored the need to improve working environments globally, as it noted that nearly three million workers die every year due to work-related accidents and diseases.
In a new report, titled "A Call for Safer and Healthier Working Environments", the United Nations agency also said that over 395 million workers are now estimated to sustain non-fatal work injuries across the world annually.
The large majority of the work-related deaths — 2.6 million out of a total of 2.93 million deaths — were linked to work-related diseases, while work accidents accounted for 330,000 fatalities.
The total deaths of 2.93 million due to work-related factors marks an increase of more than 12 percent compared to the level in 2000, according to the report unveiled on Nov 27.
Circulatory diseases, malignant neoplasms and respiratory diseases were cited as the three leading causes of work-related deaths, the report said, adding that the three categories "contribute more than three-quarters of total work-related mortality".
The study said the sizeable increase in the absolute number of work-related fatalities was influenced by several factors, which may relate to an aggravation in terms of unprotected exposures to occupational risks, as well as to socio-demographic changes.
For example, it said, the global labor force increased by 26 percent between 2000 and 2019, from 2.75 billion to 3.46 billion. Diagnostic tools have also improved significantly over the last two decades, contributing to an increase in the number of cases detected.
It also revealed that work-related deaths were unequally distributed, with the male mortality rate being significantly higher at 108.3 per 100,000 in the labor force than the female rate at 48.4 per 100,000.
In terms of regional distribution, Asia and the Pacific held the highest share, contributing to almost 63 percent of global work-related mortality.
"This reflects the fact that the region possesses the highest working population in the world," the ILO report said.
In relative terms, work-related fatalities represented 6.71 percent of all deaths globally, with the attributable fraction of work-related deaths estimated to be highest in Africa at 7.39 percent, followed by Asia and the Pacific at 7.13 percent, and Oceania at 6.52 percent.
In looking into detail the most prevalent occupational risk factors, the World Health Organization and the ILO developed a joint estimation methodology to produce the joint estimates of the work-related burden of disease and injury. They studied 42 pairs of occupational risk factors and associated health outcomes.
These estimates, the report said, provide evidence on the relation between occupational exposure to specific risk factors and the subsequent negative health outcomes.
Among the 20 occupational risk factors considered, the one with the largest number of attributable deaths in 2016 was exposure to long working hours — of equal to or more than 55 hours per week — killing almost 745,000 people.
This was followed by exposure to occupational particulate matter, gases and fumes, with over 450,000 associated deaths; and third, occupational injuries, with over 363,000 deaths.
The ILO Governing Body has adopted the new Global Strategy on Occupational Safety and Health for 2024-2030 to boost global efforts to ensure a safe and healthy work environment.
The goal, it said, is "to promote, respect and progressively realize the fundamental right to a safe and healthy working environment worldwide", in line with the ILO's dedication to social justice and the promotion of decent work; and encouraging to act on three pillars.
First, to improve national occupational safety and health, or OSH, frameworks by enhancing governance, promoting reliable data, and building competency. Second, it hopes to strengthen coordination, partnerships and investment in OSH at national and global levels.
It also aims to enhance workplace OSH management systems, tailoring it to specific hazards, risks, sectors and occupations, and taking into account how working conditions can affect the physical and mental health of workers.
The study was presented at the 23rd World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, which is being held in Sydney, Australia, from Nov 27 to 30.
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