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Global estimates of occupational accidents and fatal work-related diseases

Research output: Book/ReportDoctoral thesisCollection of Articles


Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTampere
PublisherTampere University of Technology
Number of pages95
ISBN (Electronic)978-952-15-2505-6
ISBN (Print)978-952-15-2449-3
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2010
Publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Publication series

NameTampere University of Technology. Publication
PublisherTampere University of Technology
ISSN (Print)1459-2045


Recording occupational accidents and occupational diseases is one of the central demands for good occupational health and safety. Western industrial countries have already for a long time recorded their occupational accidents and occupational diseases, but the established practices of recording differ from country to country. In many developing countries the recording of occupational accidents and diseases has only recently been established or is still absent. Variation in recording due to, e.g. differences in definitions and branch of compensation system is challenging in terms of understanding recorded cases. In addition, work-related diseases are typically excluded from the recording system. Work-related diseases are diseases caused by work, at least partly, but not classified as occupational diseases. For example, musculoskeletal disorders, mental diseases and occupational cancers have received increasing interest.

Occupational accidents and work-related diseases are a worldwide problem. They cause a lot of suffering and losses for the individual, organisation, community and society. Statistics of occupational accidents and work-related diseases are needed for prevention work at the enterprise and nation level. Statistics help to focus on specific areas and affect political decision-making. Especially increasing awareness in developing countries and directing limited resources to the right places is easier.

The objective of this doctoral thesis was to develop models to estimate the global number of occupational accidents and fatal work-related diseases. The study was done in three parts: the initial study and two update studies. The first one was carried out in 2001-2002. It concentrated on creating a model to estimate the number of occupational accidents for the year 1998 and fatal work-related diseases for the year 2000. The second (2003-2004) and the third (2005-2006) studies were more like update studies. The methods used in these update studies were the same as in the first study to keep the estimated numbers comparable. The number of occupational accidents was calculated for the years 2001 and 2003 as well as the number of fatal work-related diseases for the year 2002. In the second update study fatal work-related diseases figures were given for the first time by country level.

In the world approximately 2.3 million deaths occur every year because of occupational accidents and work-related diseases. It means that over 6,000 workers die every day because of their work. There were 330 million non-fatal accidents causing at least four days absence from work during one year. Deaths have remained quite the same during a five year period, but non-fatal accidents increased by 20% in the same time period. Even though the total number of occupational accidents has increased, the fatality rate (number of fatal occupational accidents per 100 000 workers) has decreased in the same period. However, in many developing countries the amount of total employment was missing and instead the number of economically active people was used to calculate the fatality rate, which has the effect of decreasing it.

In the case of the work-related diseases it seems that work causes a lot of cancer, circulatory diseases, communicable diseases and occupational accidents. Communicable diseases are mainly a problem in developing countries, while work-related cancers are a quite big part of all cancers discovered in developed countries. Communicable diseases are expected to decrease and work-related cancers and circulatory diseases to increase in developing countries during the process of their industrialization.

Although the main objective was the creation of estimation models, several other study questions came up during the study, which affect the main objective. Two special questions were taken into more detailed review: (1) the effect of globalization on occupational accidents, and (2 ) the effect of competitiveness on occupational safety. The former was based on a literature review and the latter was studied by means of a simple statistical test.

From the global perspective, changes in social structure such as corporation mergers outsourcing and production flow to developing countries have impacted both in developed and developing regions on the number of occupational accidents and work-related diseases, even if this is difficult to demonstrate. Though extensive industrialization causes work-related accidents and diseases, it also increases consciousness of occupational safety and health issues. Another motivation aspect for developing countries is that better safety and health increases competitiveness. Competitiveness requires political and economic stability, as well as a well-trained labour force. Workers’ awareness has increased and this usually leads to an improvement in occupational safety and health. Both at national and company level investment in safety and health decreases the number of occupational accidents and work-related diseases, but increases, e.g. the employees’ job satisfaction, commitment to the company and productivity.

Publication forum classification

Field of science, Statistics Finland

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