Workplace Fatalities and Injuries: An International Perspective

When considering the amount of workplace fatalities, occupational hazards, and injuries in the United States, many wonder how many occur across the world.  Considering the fact that in 2012, the United States alone had a total of 4,383 fatal work injuries, it begs the question regarding the amount of worldwide injuries.  We looked into the numbers, and this is what we found.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that about 1.2 million works related deaths, 250 million accidents and 160 million work-related diseases occur worldwide annually.

These deaths and injuries take a particularly heavy toll in developing countries, Minister of Health Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu has said.

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He made this known at a press briefing yesterday in Abuja marking the 2014 World Day for Safety Health at work added that Occupational diseases have long latency period from exposure to manifestation, so early access to occupational health services may help detect the condition before it gets too late as they are mostly incurable beyond this stage.

The Minister, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, said that chemicals pose a broad range of potential adverse effects including the following:

  • Health hazards such as carcinogenicity
  • Physical hazards like flammability
  • Environmental hazards such as widespread contamination and toxicity to the environment

In view of this and many other factors every 28th of April is set aside annually as World day for Safety and Health at work as an integral part of the global strategy on Occupational Safety and Health by ILO and other stakeholders to promote and protect the health of workers as well as put in place effective preventive measures to combat workplace hazards.

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According to WHO strategy for occupational Health and Safety WHA 49.2 and the ILO convention on OHS C161, 1985 every worker has the right of access to Occupational Services irrespective of the sector of the economy, size of the work place, type of assignment and occupation.

He however stated that this year’s theme for this World Day for Safety and Health at Work is “Safety and Health in the use of Chemical at work” could not have come at a better time than now when on daily basis we interface with various kind of chemicals, which has become key to our modern life and will continue to be produces and used in workplaces.

He classified occupational hazard into the following:

  • Physical hazards which are caused by physical agent such as noise, extremes of temperature, radiation, vibration, light and pressure
  • Biological Hazards are caused by living organisms which include viruses, fungi, and bacteria.
  • Mechanical hazards are attributed to work organization for example, then type of work performed such as repetitive, monotonous work, overwork from long hours and shift work;
  • Ergonomic hazards arises from adopting a wrong posture while at work and wrong method for manual lifting of heavy load to musculoskeletal disorders such as low back pain.
  • Chemical hazards arising from chemical substances used in industries. They can be organic or inorganic substances and can be in liquid, dusts, fumes, vapors, mists, or gaseous form.

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According to him, over the years, chemical safety has been one of the areas in which more work has been carried out in the field of occupational safety and health, progress has been made in recent years concerning the regulation and management of chemicals, it is still insufficient.

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