Fact: “Every 15 seconds, a worker dies from a work-related accident or disease.
Every 15 seconds, 153 workers have a work-related accident.” (ILO). World Day for Safety and Health at Work is an awareness-raising campaign founded by the International Labour Organization (ILO) “intended to focus international attention on emerging trends in the field of occupational safety and health and on the magnitude of work-related injuries, diseases such as and fatalities worldwide”. It is estimated by the ILO that approximately 2.3 million workers die from workplace accidents and diseases, more than 160 million people worldwide suffer from occupational and work-related diseases, and there are 313 million non-fatal accidents per year, while an insurmountable figure correlates to workers who are injured at work on a global scale which goes unreported. Global deaths from occupational diseases have been mainly attributed to asbestos related diseases (ARDs) and occupational cancers while deaths have been caused by exposure to high concentrations of hazardous substances, fires or explosions and falls. Since 2009 there has been an increasing trend in non-fatal illnesses such as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), skin diseases, hearing loss and respiratory conditions. In 2011, the World Health Organization reported that MSDs accounted for four per cent of all years lost to disability, compared with 3.1 per cent in 2000. An alarming rise in the number of cases of work-related stress, violence and psychosocial disorders which have been linked to the downturn in many economies resulting in job loss has also been reported. One European-wide study has shown that a large and rapid rise in unemployment has been associated with a significant increase in suicide rates (Lundin and Hemmingsson, 2009).
Unfortunately these injuries, diseases and deaths profoundly impact our economy, communities and most of all, families. In addition to infinite human suffering, these fatalities and workplace diseases do have major economic losses for corporations and countries which includes at minimum lost productivity and reduced work output. Occupational accidents and diseases have been proven to have a major impact on the productivity, competitiveness and reputation of businesses. It is estimated that around four per cent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) is lost due to various direct and indirect costs, including compensation, medical expenses, property damage, lost earnings and replacement training (International Labour Office and World Day for Safety and Health at Work, 2003), (International Labour Office, 2012a).
Let’s be reminded that we spend the majority of our time at our workplaces and as such our place of work should be safe and free from all sources that may cause harm. Regrettably, many workplaces, both internationally and locally do not place the desired emphasis on ensuring that their facilities are safe for their employees either due to economic circumstances or otherwise. Investing in a good safety and health programme will always be a wise venture and is paramount. The onus is therefore on our countries’ employers to provide a positive, healthy and sustainable working environment emphasizing safe work practices and preventative efforts. There is now a growing international appeal on the focus of establishing and implementing preventative measures and systems as a means of enhancing safe work practices. The identification, analysis, mitigation, prevention and treatment of both occupational diseases and potential accidents, as well as the improvement of recording and notification systems are critical for improving the health of individuals, business and our country.
The Jamaica Occupational Health and Safety Professionals Association (JOHSPA) joins the ILO in celebrating World Day for Safety and Health at Work under the theme “Join in Building a Culture of Prevention on OSH” and we would like to encourage all persons towards greater participatory efforts to achieve safer and healthier workplaces. As part of our efforts to garner awareness, JOHPA will be staging its quarterly seminar under the theme for World Day for Safety and Health at Work on Tuesday April 21, 2015 at the Alhambra Inn in Kingston. Our distinguished presenters will be Dr. Henroy Scarlett, Lecturer, Department of Community Health & Psychiatry, UWI, Mona and President of JOHSPA, Dr. Kam Mung, PAHO Advisor, Disease Prevention and Control and Professor Homero Silva, University of Technology, Jamaica.
Finally, JOHSPA uses this commemoration of World day for Safety and Health at work to call upon the government to pass the long awaited Occupational Safety and Health Act. This piece of legislation is too important to be ignored for so long.