By Alois Vinga
A recent International Labour Organisation (ILO), report has revealed that over 374 million people are injured or develop illnesses through work related accidents annually worldwide.
The report has cemented calls for more combative measures to minimise such incidences.
Titled “Safety and Health at the heart of the Future of Work: Building on 100 years of experience” , the report was published ahead of the World Day for Safety and Health at Work and also reviews the ILO’s 100 years of work on Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) issues. It also highlights emerging health and safety issues in the world of work.
“Currently, more than 374 million people are injured or made ill every year through work-related accidents. It is estimated that work days lost to OSH-related causes represent almost four per cent of global GDP, in some countries as much as six per cent” the report says.
The ILO observes that changes in working practices, demographics, technology and the environment are creating new OSH concerns.
Growing challenges include psychosocial risks, work-related stress and non-communicable diseases, notably circulatory and respiratory diseases, and cancers.
“As well as more effective prevention for established risks, we are seeing profound changes in our places and ways of working.
“We need safety and health structures that reflect this, alongside a general culture of prevention that creates shared responsibility,” said Manal Azzi, ILO Technical Specialist on Occupational Safety and Health.
“The economic cost, we must recognise the immeasurable human suffering such illnesses and accidents cause. These are all-the-more tragic because they are largely preventable.”
Looking to the future, the report highlights four major transformative forces driving changes. It points out that this all also offers opportunities for improvements.
First, technology such as digitisation, robotics, and nanotechology, can also affect psychosocial health and introduce new materials with unmeasured health hazards. According to the report, if correctly applied technology can also help reduce hazardous exposures, facilitate training and labour inspections.
Demographic shifts are important because young workers have significantly high occupational injury rates, while older workers need adaptive practices and equipment to work safely. Women – who are entering the workforce in increasing numbers – are more likely to have non-standard work arrangements and have a higher risk of musculoskeletal disorders.
Thirdly, development and climate change according to the report, give rise to risks such as air pollution, heat stress, emerging diseases, shifting weather and temperature patterns that can bring job losses.
Equally, new jobs will be created through sustainable development and the green economy.
Changes in the organisation of work can bring flexibility that allows more people to enter the labour force, but may also lead to psycho-social issues including insecurity, compromised privacy and rest time, or inadequate OSH and social protections according to the report.
Approximately 36 per cent of the world’s workforce currently works excessive hours (more than 48 hours per week) according to the report.