Friday, December 29, 2006

Work Kills More People Than War

The United Nations' International Labor Organization has revealed some horrifying stats:
The ILO estimates that approximately two million workers lose their lives annually due to
occupational injuries and illnesses, with accidents causing at least 350,000 deaths a year.
For every fatal accident, there are an estimated 1,000 non-fatal injuries, many of which
result in lost earnings, permanent disability and poverty. The death toll at work, much of
which is attributable to unsafe working practices, is the equivalent of 5,000 workers dying
each day, three persons every minute.
This is more than double the figure for deaths from warfare (650,000 death* per year).
According to the ILO's SafeWork programme, work kills more people than alcohol and
drugs together and the resulting loss in Gross Domestic Product is 20 times greater than all
official development assistance to the developing countries.
Each year, 6,570 US workers die because of injuries at work, while 60,225 meet their maker due
to occupational diseases. (Meanwhile, 13.2 million get hurt, and 1.1 million develop illnesses
that don't kill them.) On an average day, two or three workers are fatally shot, two fall to their
deaths, one is killed after being smashed by a vehicle, and one is electrocuted. Each year, around
30 workers die of heat stroke, and another 30 expire from carbon monoxide.
Although blue collar workers face a lot of the most obvious dangers, those slaving in offices or
stores must contend with toxic air, workplace violence, driving accidents, and (especially for the
health-care workers) transmissible diseases. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration
warns that poisonous indoor air in nonindustrial workplaces causes "[t]housands of heart disease
deaths [and] hundreds of lung cancer deaths" each year.
But hey, everybody has to go sometime, right? And since we spend so much of our lives in the
workplace, it's only logical that a lot of deaths happen — or at least are set into motion — on the
job. This explanation certainly is true to an extent, but it doesn't excuse all such deaths. The
International Labor Organization says that half of workplace fatalities are avoidable. In A Job to
Die For, Lisa Cullen writes:
In the workplace, few real accidents occur because the surroundings and operations are
known; therefore, hazards can be identified. When harm from those hazards can be
foreseen, accidents can be prevented....
Most jobs have expected, known hazards. Working in and near excavations, for example,
poses the obvious risks of death or injury from cave-in.... When trenches or excavations
collapse because soil was piled right up to the edge, there is little room to claim it was an

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