Work-related injuries, diseases and illnesses claim 2.78 million lives annually. Of this mortality figure, 2.4 million are attributed to work-related hazards alone, says the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Disclosing this growing threat last week in Singapore during the opening of the 21st World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, ILO called for more global coalition on safety and health at work.
ILO Director General, Guy Ryder, said the new global estimates on work-related illnesses and injuries represented 3.94 per cent of global GDP per year or $2.99 trillion.
Ryder told nearly 3,500 participants at the global event that the global economic impact of the failure to adequately invest in occupational safety and health is roughly equal to the total GDP of the poorest 130 countries in the world.
“In human lives, 2.78 million workers continue to die each year from work-related injuries and illnesses while 2.4 million of these deaths can be attributed to work-related diseases alone,” he said.
The figures announced were developed by Finland, Singapore, the EU and the International Commission on Occupational Health, with the support of ILO.
The new figures point to a growing body of evidence demonstrating the global cost of failing to adequately address existing and emerging Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) concerns, and to the importance of OSH to sustainable development.
“Clearly, there is a recognition that certain OSH challenges are global challenges that require global solutions,” Ryder said.
He noted ILO’s readiness to engage in the development of a global coalition with key partners in meeting these challenges as proposed by Finnish Minister of Labour, Pirkko Mattila, in a forum on the future of work.
As a co-organiser of the 2017 World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, ILO is addressing key challenges for the future of work and the implications for the safety and health of workers. During the four-day congress, ILO participated in symposia and technical sessions on the need for reliable OSH data, improving occupational safety and health in global supply chains, creating mechanisms for the exchange of OSH data, knowledge and expertise globally, and fostering proactive occupational safety and health compliance strategies at national level.
The ILO Director, however, said engagement of youths around the world will be key to addressing these challenges.
“How the future of work is forged will, of course, have the greatest impact on this and the next generation and they must have a voice in the process including on OSH,” Ryder told congress participants.
Youth and OSH is a key theme at the event and central to ILO’s flagship Occupational Safety and Health Global Action for Prevention Programme.
“Forty million youths are entering the labour market this year and they are the best-educated generation the world has ever seen. We must take advantage of this demographic dividend and unleash the potential and creativity of these young people,” the head of ILO said.
Ryder explained that as part of ILO’s SafeYouth@Work project, some 125 Youth Champions from more than 29 countries are participating in a youth congress parallel to the world congress.
“The SafeYouth@Work Congress seeks to build a corps of Youth Champions on OSH to address the significant workplace safety and health challenges faced by young workers. The Youth Congress will conclude with the development of prototype models for targeted tripartite efforts at country and regional level for improving working conditions for young people,” he stated.
The 21st World Congress held from September 2-6, is a triennial event jointly organised by ILO and the International Social Security Association (ISSA), and was hosted this year by the Singapore Ministry of Manpower.
Though in Nigeria the Federal Government said it has made concerted efforts at reducing work accident and minimise casualties, organised labour said the figure has continued to rise.
Between 1987 and 1996, a total of 3,183 injuries were reported, of which 71 (2.2 per cent) were fatal. The annual case fatality rate ranged from 0.94 per 100 injured workers in 1990 to 5.41 in 1994, with an overall fatality rate of 2.23 per cent 100 injured workers, out of which 71 were deaths.
The number of casualties, according to the President of the National Union of Chemical Footwear Rubber Leather and Non-Metallic Products Employees (NUCFRLANMPE), Goke Olatunji, has doubled over the decade. The labour leader blamed the Federal Ministry of Labour for failing in its supervisory function.
“Industrial accident has continued to be on the rise and this is because the ministry that is supposed to ensure that the factories comply with safety measures never go on inspection to ensure compliance,” he said.
He lamented that despite the Employees’ Compensation Act (ECA) 2010, which replaces Workmen Compensation Act, many injured workers, mostly casuals, are left to their fate.
However, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said ECA under the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) has been living up to expectation
The ECA, among others, is to compensate employees for injuries sustained at work, including death. Under the Act, all employers of labour are mandated by law to contribute one per cent of staff total monthly pay into a pool of fund designed for the scheme.
The cash benefits under the scheme include compensation for injuries occurring in the normal workplace; mental stress; hearing impairment and injuries occurring outside the normal workplace.
In fatal cases (death), as much as 90 per cent of the total remuneration of the deceased employee is paid to the dependant of the deceased (widow/widower/children etc.); until the occurrence of certain events specified by the Act.
Non-cash benefits include provision of artificial appliances including artificial limbs where necessary, vocational, rehabilitation and counselling services to an injured employee with a view to bringing the employee back to work.