Work-related accidents taking heavy toll, UN says

18 September 2005

Some 2.2 million people die of work-related accidents and diseases each year, and this number may be vastly under-estimated due to poor reporting in many developing countries where the rate seems to be rising, according to a new United Nations report which paints a grim picture for much of the global workforce.

“Decent work must be safe work, and we are a long way from achieving that goal,” UN International Labour Organization (ILO) Director-General Juan Somavia said of the study, to be formally released tomorrow at the XVIIth World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in Orlando, United States.

“Occupational safety and health is vital to the dignity of work. 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,” he added.

While the number of work-related illnesses and deaths has lessened somewhat in the industrialized countries, the number of accidents, in particular fatal accidents, appears to be increasing, particularly in some Asian countries due to poor reporting, rapid development and strong competitive pressures of globalization, the report shows.

The study, entitled Decent Work - Safe Work, ILO Introductory Report to the XVIIth World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, 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.

“The sad truth is that in some parts of the world, many workers will probably die for lack of an adequate safety culture,” the Director of the ILO SafeWork Programme, Jukka Takala, said. “This is a heavy price to pay for uncontrolled development. We must act swiftly to reverse these trends.”

On reporting systems in developing countries the study notes that India, for example, reports 222 fatal accidents while the Czech Republic, which has a working population of about 1 per cent of India, reports 231. It estimates the true number of fatal accidents in India at 40,000.

The ILO said action at international, regional, national and enterprise levels is a prerequisite to preventing or reducing work-related accidents and ill-health.

 

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