Work-related diseases and injuries are responsible for nearly 2 million deaths every year, according to a report published Friday (September 17) by two U.N. agencies.
The first joint study by the World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization on job-related diseases and injuries from 2000 to 2016 found that most deaths were caused by respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, with 1.9 million lives lost in 2016.
“It’s shocking to see so many people literally being killed by their jobs,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the report.
“Our report is a wake-up call to countries and businesses to improve and protect the health and safety of workers.”
The study, which considered 19 occupational risk factors, including exposure to air pollution and various hazardous materials, found that long working hours are responsible for the greatest number of work-related deaths, with 750,000 deaths globally in 2016, the agencies said.
Long working hours are defined as 55 hours or more a week.
The study looked at the number of deaths from stroke and heart disease that could be traced to long working hours. Since 2000, the numbers globally are showing an upward trend.
The findings provide “important information on the work-related burden of disease, and this information can help to shape policies and practices to create healthier and safer workplaces,” ILO Director General Guy Ryder said.
A disproportionately large number of work-related deaths, in general, occur in male workers aged 54 and over in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific, according to the study. It is also true of deaths related to long working hours, it said.
The report notes that the number of work-related diseases is likely substantially larger than highlighted in the survey. For example, the current analysis does not capture exposure to stress at the workplace and its impact on mental health diseases and deaths.