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2 Million Die Annually from Work-Related Accidents, Illness, says ILO - 2003-05-04


The International Labor Organization reports that about two million people die every year from work-related accidents and illnesses. The ILO study concludes that death and injury in the workplace costs the global economy an estimated $1.25 trillion a year.

The International Labor Organization report says about 5,000 workers every day lose their lives from largely preventable accidents and work-related illnesses.

It says about 270 million workplace accidents occur every year, and 160 million people suffer from occupational diseases. About 12,000 child laborers die from work-related causes.

The report said the riskiest jobs include agriculture, mining, construction, and fishing.

The ILO's director of safe work, Jukka Takala, said the rates of occupational fatalities, accidents, and illness are declining in industrialized countries. But in developing and newly industrialized nations, he says, the numbers are steady or rising.

Mr. Takala said patterns vary in different parts of the world. For instance, he said, accidents are the biggest factor in killing people in Southeast Asia and China. "Then, if you look at the poorest countries in the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, black Africa, as well as India, then we have work-related, communicable diseases, which are making quite a big component of those fatalities. This means problems related to often farming, agriculture, work-related malaria, work-related schistosomiasis, tsetse flies, and simply diseases caused by poor drinking water and poor sanitation," Mr. Takala said.

The ILO study said better prevention and better emergency facilities have played an important part in bringing down the death and accident rates in industrialized countries. Another factor, it said, is that many of the most dangerous jobs have been exported to developing countries.

The report said industrialized countries have largely shifted from hazardous physical occupations to work in service industries, such as shops, banks and high-tech computer jobs.

While there are fewer physical injuries, Mr. Takala said, ailments related to stress and overwork are on the increase in the richer nations. He noted that almost one-third of all work-related deaths around the world are from cancer. He added this is the biggest problem in industrialized countries.

"Chemicals are causing quite a lot of fatalities and other problems at work. We noticed that from 1990 to 2000, the number of chemical-related or hazardous substance-related fatalities had gone up about 100,000. It used to be 340,000 10-years ago, and now it is 440,000. If you look at what are the key factors there, clearly asbestos is one of those. It is killing about 100,000 - one single substance, asbestos only, in the whole world. And in this is clearly a big problem in the industrialized countries," he said.

Mr. Takala said cancers also result from other factors such as ionizing radiation, silica and other carcinogenic dusts and passive smoking at the workplace.

The ILO says most on-the-job deaths and injuries could be prevented if international safety standards were followed.

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