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Progress On Safer Workplaces Has Reached 'Plateau'

Progress toward a safer workplace has reached 'plateau' - new UN report

29 June 2008 - A "plateau" has been reached in achieving a safe, decent and healthy workplace, despite major economic, scientific and technical progress, according to a report released today by the UN International Labour Organization (ILO).

The study, which is being released as the World Congress on Safety and Health and Work gets under way in the Republic of Korea, says that the estimated number of non-fatal occupational accidents involving more than four days loss of work increased from 268 million to 377 million between 2001 and 2003, largely as a result of an increase in the number of workers globally.

At the same time, the report says that the estimated number of fatal accidents rose slightly over the same period, from 351,000 to 358,000.

"The plateau in efforts to turn the objective of decent, safe and healthy working conditions into a reality must be overcome," Assane Diop, Executive Director of the ILO Social Protection Sector, said in a statement. "We must do what we can, enforce or enact the laws we need and take actions we must to make our workplaces safe and decent. It's our common responsibility."

Other figures from the report show that the total number of deaths caused by work-related diseases declined slightly between 2001 and 2003, from 2.03 million to 1.95 million, while the overall estimated number of deaths caused by both accidents and diseases also declined slightly, from 2.38 million to 2.31 million.

The report noted that while there had been steady progress in reducing the numbers of occupational accidents and diseases in the industrialized countries, this had not happened in countries experiencing rapid industrialization, or in those countries too poor to operate effective work-safety systems or to properly enforce legislation.

This week's World Congress is bringing together some 4,000 representatives from more than 100 countries.

Participants will focus on key issues in risk management including the impact of the informal economy and migration on work safety; elimination of asbestos-related risks; the potential risk of nanotechnologies; gender differences in hazardous industries; the use of ergonomics to improve working environments, and HIV/AIDS and the workplace.


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