Report Calculates Global Toll of Occupational Accidents, Diseases

Published May 2, 2019

​A new report issued by the International Labor Organization quantifies the number of people who die each year around the world from work-related accidents and work-related diseases. The report, “Safety and Health at the Heart of the Future of Work: Building on 100 Years of Experience” (PDF), summarizes the evolution of occupational health and safety since ILO’s founding in 1919 and addresses current trends that are changing the world of work.

According to the report, occupational accidents and diseases account for the deaths of 2.78 million people around the world each year. Of these deaths, 86 percent are attributable to occupational disease.

Workplace accidents affect 374 million people every year, and the cost of workdays lost to accidents equals nearly four percent of the world’s gross domestic product, the report states.

“As well as the economic cost, we must recognize the immeasurable human suffering such illnesses and accidents cause,” said Manal Azzi, an OHS specialist with ILO, in a press release. “These are all the more tragic because they are largely preventable. Serious consideration should also be given to the recommendation of the ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work that occupational safety and health be recognized as a fundamental principle and right at work.”

Among the trends affecting occupational health and safety discussed in the report are technological changes such as digitization, robotics, and nanotechnology. According to ILO, these trends can affect psychosocial health and introduce new materials with uncertain hazards into the workplace. Other trends include demographic shifts, climate change, and changes in work organization.

The report notes that approximately 36 percent of the world’s work force works excessive hours, which ILO defines as more than 48 hours per week.