UN labour agency says 2 million people die annually of workrelated causes

The annual death toll from job-related diseases and injuries has risen to 2 million, while many more people are injured as a result of their work, according to statistics released today by the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO).The estimates, which cover the year 2000, show that on average, more than 5,000 people died every day, while for every deadly accident there were an additional 500 to 2,000 injuries. For every fatal work-related disease there are about 100 other illnesses causing absence from work.In a report prepared for the World Congress on Occupational Safety and Health at Work, scheduled to open in Vienna on Sunday, the ILO said the number of documented deaths among workers has increased since 1990, in part because of better statistical accounting but also because the number of cases of work-related cancer and circulatory diseases have increased. Also over the past decade, figures for fatal accidents went up slightly in developing countries but decreased in most industrialized countries.According to the report, the biggest killer in the workplace is cancer, causing roughly 640,000 or 32 per cent of deaths, followed by circulatory diseases at 23 per cent, accidents at 19 per cent and communicable diseases at 17 per cent. Asbestos alone, the report says, takes some 100,000 lives annually.Dr. Jukka Takala, Director of the ILO’s InFocus Programme on Safety and Health at Work and the Environment, said the worst news concerned young people, with the report estimating that 12,000 children die each year working in hazardous conditions.ILO Director-General Juan Somavia drew attention to the broad scope of the tragedy. “Let us not forget the impact that these accidents and diseases have on the families of the worker who has become injured, disabled or may have died as a result of work,” he said. “The emotional distress, the personal adjustment and even the financial survival of the family are also factors that must be considered.”“The world has a moral obligation to act,” he stressed. “These findings must be part of future strategies to promote occupational safety and health at work.”

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