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The Global State of Workplace Safety

As 2023 comes to an end, it’s instructive to ask, are global workplaces getting safer?

The data, here, is mixed. Nearly three million workers around the world still die every year due to work-related accidents and diseases, according to new ILO (International Labour Organization) estimates.

So, what’s the global state of workplace safety? Read on to find out.

ILO finds persistent challenges in safeguarding global workplace safety

Well, in answer, the ILO, just last month, came out with a new report, A Call for Safer and Healthier Working Environments, which it presented at the 23rd World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in Sydney.

In it, the UN agency tasked with establishing international labor standards noted that work-related fatalities increased by more than five per cent compared to 2015.  

Where are work-related fatalities coming from?

How do these fatalities break down?

It turns out the lion’s share of work-related fatalities are coming from disease. Two point six million out of three million, or over 85 per cent.  

What diseases in particular?

Topping the list are circulatory diseases, malignant neoplasms, and respiratory diseases. These maladies rank among the top three causes of work-related death.

When put together, these three categories of disease contribute more than three-quarters of total work-related mortality.

What about accidents?

According to the same analysis, work-related accidents account for an additional 330,000 deaths.

Further breakdown of workplace fatality

Over the period in question, men were far likelier to die from work-related incidents than women: 51.4 per 100,000 working age adults compared to 17.2. per 100,000.

The regional breakdown is similarly stark. The populous Asia and Pacific region accounted for over three-fifths of the global total of work-related mortality.

Similarly, some of the sectors historically considered most high at risk accounted for higher levels of fatal injuries.

Those sectors include:

In fact, 63 per cent of all fatal occupational injuries came from those four sectors. Agriculture, on its own, accounted for a third of all fatal occupational injuries around the world.

Strategies to improve the global state of workplace safety

So, what’s there to be done to improve the global state of workplace safety? Well, the ILO is rolling out a new strategy for 2024 to 2030 to prioritize the wellbeing of workers.

One of the three pillars of the Global Strategy on Occupational Safety and Health for 2024-2030 is enhancing safety management systems through the promotion of ILO-OSH 2001 principles.

Predating ISO 45001, ILO-OSH 2001 also offers guidelines for implementing safety management systems. Indeed, its section on safety system performance monitoring and measurement resembles the later standard’s section on performance evaluation.

What does that section say? From ISO 45001, elements of performance monitoring and measurement that organizations should consider in order to improve workplace safety include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Establish, implement, and maintain a process(es) for monitoring, measurement, analysis, and performance evaluation
  • Evaluate the OH&S performance and determine the effectiveness of the OH&S management system
  • Ensure that monitoring and measuring equipment is calibrated or verified as applicable and is used and maintained as appropriate
  • Retain appropriate documented information:
    • As evidence of the results of monitoring, measurement, analysis and performance evaluation
    • On the maintenance, calibration, or verification of measuring equipment

How to get these guidelines into action? That’s where digital safety management technology comes in; and so, organizations should consider the capabilities needed to set up a ISO 45001-compliant safety management system. Not sure what those are? Download our Guide to the Digital Capabilities Needed to Implement ISO 45001.

Digital Technology Needed to Implement ISO 45001