Workers Honored, Mourned
Today is a day to grieve for workers who have died on the job and to focus on improving conditions for workers around the world, the ILO's director-general, Juan Somavia, said.
The International Labour Organization estimates some 6,300 people die from work-related injuries and illnesses daily and 337 million lost-time workplace accidents occur annually. April 2010 has been an especially hard month for U.S. workers. Twenty-nine miners died April 5 in an explosion inside the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig are presumed dead from an April 20 explosion and fire, and seven workers died from an April 2 explosion at the Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes, Wash. -- the deadliest industrial accident in that state in the 37 years the state Department of Labor & Industries has been enforcing workplace safety laws under the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA).
"It is time to make a concerted effort to ensure that occupational safety and health is an integral element of strategies for strong, sustainable, and balanced development. Workers and their families, enterprises, societies, and economies stand to benefit," ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said in his message for April 28, 2010, World Day for Safety and Health at Work.
"The human cost of this daily tragedy is immeasurable," he said. "But the economic cost of working days lost, medical treatment, and cash benefits paid out is estimated at 4 percent of global GDP each year. This exceeds the total value of the stimulus packages introduced in the face of the economic crisis of 2008-09.
"We are still dealing with the consequences of workplace hazards of the past. At the same time we are confronted with new occupational safety and health challenges in a world of work undergoing rapid transformation. Many occupational hazards remain hidden and ignored, particularly in the informal economy. On this World Day we highlight the emerging risks and new approaches to prevention in a changing world of work. Technological progress is accompanied by new workplace risks, diverse employment arrangements, and changing workforce demographics. New risks have emerged in fields such as nanotechnology application, biotechnology, and chemical handling. An aging workforce and increases in the numbers of female workers, migrant workers, and informal workers also have implications for occupational safety and health strategies. Another striking development is the rise in psychosocial conditions linked to new stresses and strains of work in the global economy. Recently the adverse impact of the economic crisis on enterprises has taken its toll on many workers.
"Prevention strategies must be responsive to this environment and occupational safety and health management systems constantly reassessed and strengthened if they are to be up to the task of overcoming the legacy of poor practices in the past, meeting present challenges, and anticipating the risks of the future. Experience shows that prevention works for all."
ILO has posted a booklet about the emerging workplace risks it has recognized, including nanotechnology, chemicals and pesticide exposures, and new infectious diseases that are a particular hazard for 35 million health care workers worldwide. CDC offers materials about today, known as Workers Memorial Day in the United States, here.