Most of us don’t know the tremendous loss of life that happens to workers while they’re on the job. Each year, more than 1,100,000 working people, around the World, die at work. Statistically, the vast majority of the fatalities happened due to negligence of the employers.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, here in the U.S., nearly 5,000 people die on the job each year. That averages to around 13 fatalities per day. The overall deadliest State in the country for workers is Texas. In 2011, that State reported 433 work related deaths. In reckoning per capita deaths, North Dakota registered the highest death rate at 12.4 per 100,000 people.
One often overlooked statistic is that more than 50,000 working people die due to occupation-related illnesses each year in the United States. Two-year old data showed that job-related illnesses and injuries cost the U.S. some $250,000,000,000 each year. Workers’ compensation provides less than one fourth of the cost of workplace illness and injury. Medicare, Medicaid and employer-provided medical insurance make up the difference.
Worldwide totals from the World Health Organization (WHO) are quite shocking. Hundreds of millions of people around the World are employed in conditions that are unsafe and breed illness. Not counting the fatalities, some 300,000 workplace accidents lead to partial or complete loss of ability to work and provide an income. Chemical related deaths are estimated at 651,000 per year.
According to the WHO and the International Labor Organization (ILO), approximately 160,000,000 new cases of work-related health problems occur each year. These include cardiovascular and respiratory disease, cancers, deafness, musculoskeletal and reproductive disorders, along with mental and neurological problems.
Over half of the workers in industrialized nations suffer stress in the workplace. Overwork, and job stress are associated with depression and sleep disturbance. Scientific evidence suggests prolonged exposure to job stress contributes to cardiovascular disease, hypertension and psychological disorders.
The WHO and ILO say that evaluating the numbers and impact of worker fatalities, injuries, and illnesses is difficult because of under-reporting and under-diagnosis. The underestimations are partially blamed on the struggle between workers needing protection and compensation versus employers seeking to deny or reduce the liability for disease, injuries, and deaths.
Unlike many other holidays and commemorations, International Workers’ Memorial Day passes largely unnoticed by the general public. This is quite shocking, because most people work or have worked during their lives. The first Workers’ Memorial Day was initiated by the Canadian Union of Public Employees in 1984.
In 1991 the Canadian Parliament passed an Act instituting a National Day of Mourning for people killed or injured in the workplace. The law made April 28th, each year, the day of commemoration.
From Canada, the idea soon spread to the United States, then globally. Events have been planned to raise awareness of dead and injured workers by trade unions in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.
For more information about today’s International Workers’ Memorial Day, go to: http://tinyurl.com/p5jwcwv
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this quip from H.L. Mencken: “I go on working for the same reason that a hen goes on laying eggs.”