Death by work: daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, even hourly. Globally, over 2 million people, roughly speaking, die every year due to their working conditions and their environment. The ILO, the International Labour Organization, says more than that. 2.3 million workers die due to “occupational accidents or work-related diseases.”
Actually, it is about 4 per minute if you count the number of seconds in a year and then do the math with that 2 million per year dead. A 5-minute article read comes out to about 20 deaths by work. But then again, over 150,000 people die every day.
So only about 5,500 out of the total 150,000 dead witnessed each day, or about 2.3 million out of the 131 million dead per annum. Only 167,000 people die each year due to conflict. As the World Economic Forum (WEF) reports, “167,000 people died in armed conflicts in 2015, according to the latest edition of the IISS Armed Conflict Survey.”
To top out the staggering number of deaths, there inefficiencies with not only having fewer workers, but workers need to take leaves of absence based on work. There are ~313 million accidents each year on the job that result in those absences.
Why does this matter? Two reasons.
One, it is costing human lives. I suspect most of the most dangerous jobs are taken by men, and so the costs in the injuries and livelihood, and lives – outright, will be young men and men.
Two, it is costing countries and the global economy. WEF said, “The ILO estimates that the annual cost to the global economy from accidents and work-related diseases alone is a staggering $3 trillion.”
So it matters on the two main points of contact for people – morals and money, or ethics and economics. Not only this, a few billion workers in the world – 3.2 – are “increasingly unwell” and facing “economic insecurity.”
¾ are in the vulnerable sector, the precariat, which means part-time, temporary, and unpaid work. These are the lowest half of the world’s workforce, for the most part. What’s more, our ageing world population is making some things untenable such as ½ of the working population being fat or “obese.”
Productivity relates to wellbeing and the health of the workforce, but the health and wellbeing of the workforce relate to the eventual medical costs – especially for the old. An old, less healthy, less well-off workforce loses net productivity.
Who pays? At the end analysis, everyone.
Klaus Schwab, a respected and prominent contributor, and founder and executive chairman of the WEF, presented the Workplace Alliance Report. In the introduction or the presentation of the report, he made some key notes.
First, employers have a responsibility for the wellbeing of their employees without which the country can lose “competitiveness, productivity and well-being.” Second, ½ or more of the working population, so the labour force, spend their time at work – most of their time.
Third, there is the need – and this is an indication of the reason for the respect, it can be assume – for the incentivising of workers to engage in healthier lifestyles and for the employers to provide healthier families and communities.
Fourth, employees have a duty to self-respect through healthy lifestyles. But also, employers have the responsibility to provide healthier working conditions too.
The majority of the cases here are based on the construction industry, where 1/6 fatal workplace accidents take place in the construction sector. I worked in the construction sector for years, from adolescence onwards, and sucked at it. But there you go.
In the case of men, many incidence occur because of the “intrinsically hazardous nature of this work, the challenging locations of construction sites, changing work environments and high rates of staff turnover. There are also health problems associated with building activities, such as musculoskeletal disorders and exposure to hazardous substances, such as asbestos.”
Construction remains dangerous for the aforementioned reasons. But there have been significant improvements in safety.
And it doesn’t come without a cost. Contractors and owners “commit the time, budget and management to focus on the well-being of the construction workforce.”
There standards of safety performance. There is the need to implement programmes to prove sufficient efficacy. The goals spoken of now are “zero incidents.”
There were 6 areas listed by the WEF for the arenas of worker health, safety, and wellness:
- Creating an organisational leadership structure that fosters a culture passionate about health, safety and wellness
- Establishing governance, engagement and dialogue for health, safety and wellness awareness
- Well-being through social stability and security
- Well-being through advanced technology
- Well-being through professional development
- Specific actions for ensuring mental and emotional well-being
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.