As deaths due to work-related factors increase, ILO report calls for countries to strengthen safety net

More than 63% of these deaths are reported from the Asia-Pacific region

Updated - November 28, 2023 12:54 pm IST

Published - November 28, 2023 04:38 am IST - New Delhi

A rescue operation is underway in the Silkyara Tunnel where 41 workers are trapped inside after a portion of it collapsed, in Uttarkashi on November 27. In the wake of the incident, the Central Trade Unions have urged the Union government to ratify the labour conventions. 

A rescue operation is underway in the Silkyara Tunnel where 41 workers are trapped inside after a portion of it collapsed, in Uttarkashi on November 27. In the wake of the incident, the Central Trade Unions have urged the Union government to ratify the labour conventions.  | Photo Credit: ANI

Nearly 30 lakh workers die every year globally due to work-related accidents and diseases, according to a new report prepared by the International Labour Organization (ILO). More than 63% of these deaths are reported from the Asia-Pacific region.

Exposure to long working hours (55 hours or more per week) was the biggest “killer”, with almost 7.45 lakh people dying of it in 2016, followed by exposure to occupational particulate matter, gases, and fumes (4.5 lakh deaths) and occupational injuries (3.63 lakh deaths).

The report, titled ‘A Call for Safer and Healthier Working Environments’, will be discussed at the 23rd World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, one of the largest international conferences on this subject, which began in Sydney on November 27. Citing the data on the fatal occupational injury rate, the report said mining and quarrying, construction, and utilities sectors were the three most hazardous sectors globally.

The Director General of the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC), Rajendra Kumar, is representing India at the conference.

ILO conventions

The report said that so far 79 out of the 187 member countries have ratified the ILO Occupational Safety and Health Convention (No. 155), while 62 countries have ratified the Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 (No. 187). India has not ratified both the conventions.

In the wake of the Uttarkashi tunnel incident, the Central Trade Unions had urged the Union government to ratify the conventions.

“In line with the core principles of the two fundamental Conventions, a sound and resilient national occupational safety and health (OSH) framework, built on social dialogue and participation, is essential for the realisation of the fundamental right to a safe and healthy working environment,” the report noted.

It added that a majority of these work-related deaths, 26 lakh, was attributed to work-related diseases, while work accidents resulted in 3.3 lakh deaths.

“The diseases that caused most work-related deaths were circulatory diseases, malignant neoplasms and respiratory diseases,” it added.

The attributable fraction of work-related deaths is estimated to be highest in Africa (7.39%), followed by Asia and the Pacific (7.13%) and Oceania (6.52%).

The report said that the rate of trachea, bronchus, and lung cancers attributable to occupational exposure to chromium doubled between 2000 and 2016. Mesothelioma, attributable to asbestos exposure, has risen by 40%. The rate of non-melanoma skin cancer increased by over 37% between 2000 and 2020.

“On the other hand, deaths due to exposure to asthmagens and particulate matter, gases, and fumes decreased by over 20%,” it added.

The report also recommended five categories of “Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work” for ensuring safety and health at work. These are freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour, abolition of child labour, elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation, and a safe and healthy working environment.

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