Work-related deaths rising worldwide

Geneva, September 18:

At least 2.2 million people die of work-related accidents and diseases around the world each year, the UN International Labour Organisation (ILO) said in a report to be released tomorrow, adding that the estimate was 10 per cent higher than in 2002. In the wide-ranging report for release in advance of a conference on health and safety opening in the United States, the ILO said the true figures for killed and injured were certainly higher, due to poor data collection in many countries. The number of work-related illnesses and deaths decreased slightly in industrialised nations but the number of accidents — particularly fatal ones — appears to be on the rise, notably in some Asian countries. The trend, the ILO found, was due to “the rapid development and strong competitive pressures of globalisation. 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,” the DG warned.

The report also confirmed that while work-related illnesses are the main problem in industrialised economies, accidents are more common in developing nations, where workers in sectors such as mining, construction and farming are particularly at risk. Each year, dangerous substances kill around 440,000 workers, asbestos accounting for 100,000 of these deaths. Asbestos poisoning claims 3,500 lives in Britain each year, six times more than the number of deaths by accidents on the job. Working-related deaths among men are largely due to accidents, lung diseases, cancer or asbestos poisoning.