Occupational Injuries and Illnesses

Goals

To determine the global, or at a minimum the North American and European Union breakdown of the types and number of workplace-related diseases, including physical, non-communicable and mental, but not accidents, and their respective causes that could have been prevented or minimized. This information will be used in utilizing data from smart-technology, such as sensors in or on the body and in the workplace environment for ongoing monitoring of the health of employees in order to reduce the incidence of preventable diseases.

Early Findings

European Union

  • According to EU OSHA, work-related diseases account for 200,000 deaths each year in Europe. These include musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), stress and mental health disorders, work-related cancer, skin diseases, and work-related diseases from biological agents.
  • According to the agency, MSDs are the most common work-related health problem in the European Union (EU), which generally develop over time from a combination of various factors including physical, biomechanical, organizational, psychosocial, and individual factors.
  • The major workplace exposures that contribute to the progression of work-related diseases include the following:
    • Psychological risk factors, such as stress and work shifts.
    • Physical factors, such as sedentary work, noise, manual lifting, and vibration.
    • Carcinogens and other dangerous substances, such as chemical and biological agents.
    • Radiation, such as ionising radiation and ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
  • A full 13% of European workers are exposed to infectious biological agents at work, which include viruses, parasites, bacteria, and fungi. These agents can either directly cause health problems or through exposure to related allergens or toxins.
  • There are approximately 120,000 work-related cancer cases occurring annually in the EU resulting from exposure to carcinogens at work, which translates to approximately 80,000 fatalities each year.
  • A full 17% of EU workers reported being exposed to chemical substances for at least a quarter of their working time, with 15% reporting inhaling smoke, powder, fumes or dust at work.
  • About half of EU workers consider work-related stress as common at their workplaces, with job insecurity, working long hours or excessive workload, harassment, and violence at work being the most cited causes of work-related stress.
  • The following are additional examples of working conditions contributing most to psychosocial risks:
    • Conflicting demands/lack of job clarity
    • Lack of involvement in decison-making on matters affecting the worker
    • Poorly managed organizational change
    • Ineffective communication and lack of support from management or colleagues

North America (US)

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the total number of injuries per 100 full-time workers in 2019 was 2.8. The number has been decreasing steadily in the past 15 years.

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