The WHO/ILO Joint Estimates of the Work-Related Burden of Disease and Injury, 2000-2016, conducted before the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic, gives a glimpse of the terrible toll taken on the international working class by the insatiable profit drive of the corporations.
The year 2016, shows that workplace-related diseases and injuries led to the deaths of 1.9 million people.
Globally, 34.3 out of every 100,000 people over age 15 die each year from work-related causes.
The WHO/ILO study was compiled using strict statistical standards with the collaboration of more than 220 experts from 35 countries. It considers risk factors, including exposure to carcinogens, air pollution, workplace injuries and long working hours.
It concluded that long work hours, 55 or more per week, was the largest single contributor to worker mortality, accounting for 750,000 deaths annually. Workplace exposure to air pollution was responsible for 450,000 deaths. Occupational injuries killed 360,000 annually.
The WHO/ILO study examined 41 selected pairs of occupational risk factors and health outcomes.
In 2016, 1.88 million deaths and 89.72 million disability-adjusted life years (DALY) were estimated to be caused by 41 occupational risk pairs. Non-communicable diseases accounted for 81 percent of occupational deaths. This included 450,000 deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (400,000 deaths) and ischemic heart disease (350,000 deaths), mostly related to long work hours.
In addition to overwork, huge numbers of workers fall victim to numerous other hazards. The next leading cause of workplace deaths is occupational exposure to particulate matter, gases and fumes, and occupational injuries. These categories account for 450,381 and 363,283 deaths each year, respectively.
“All of these deaths are preventable,” International Labour Organization chief Guy Ryder correctly noted in a video message on the report. “We can and we must ensure safe and healthy workplaces for all workers.”
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, stated, “It’s shocking to see so many people literally being killed by their jobs. Our report is a wake-up call to countries and businesses to improve and protect the health and safety of workers by honouring their commitments to provide universal coverage of occupational health and safety services.”
However, such pleas are sure to fall on deaf ears. Indeed, The WHO/ILO report was barely noted by the corporate media.
The report demonstrates the inability of the capitalist system, despite vast technological advances, to provide the basic minimum standards for a healthy work environment.
The barbaric conditions laid bare in this report point to the necessity of a global struggle against the source of the problem, capitalism.