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Work-Related Illnesses and Injuries Cost EU €476 Billion a Year

Sept. 6, 2017
At the recent XXI World Congress on Safety and Health at Work held in Singapore, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) together with the International Labour Organization present new estimates of the cost of poor occupational safety and health (OSH).

New findings reveal that worldwide, work-related injuries and illnesses result in the loss of 3.9 percent of GDP, at an annual cost of roughly €2,680 billion. In the European Union alone, work-related ill-health and injury is costing 3.3 percent of its GDP. That’s €476 billion every year, which could be saved with the right occupational safety and health strategies, policies and practices, said Dr. Christa Sedlatschek, the director of EU-OSHA.

 “Safe and healthy work is a fundamental human right but these new estimates of the costs of poor or non-existent OSH measures show that the economic case for OSH has never been stronger,” said Sedlatschek.

The estimates are findings from a major project on the costs and benefits of OSH. The project was carried out by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH), the WSH Institute in Singapore, the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) and EU-OSHA.

Good practice in OSH can help make businesses productive, competitive and sustainable, as well as reducing healthcare costs and other societal burdens. But the costs of poor OSH are high for individuals, business and society. Through the costs and benefits project, EU-OSHA has taken steps to identify and evaluate the data that is available in the EU and worldwide to develop accurate and up-to-date estimates of the costs of work-related diseases and injuries.

Further findings presented at the World Congress include:

  • Work-related illnesses account for 86 percent of all deaths related to work worldwide, and 98 percent of those in the EU.
  • 123.3 million DALY (disability-adjusted life years) are lost globally (7.1 million in the EU) as a result of work-related injury and illness. Of these, 67.8 million (3.4 million in the EU) are accounted for by fatalities and 55.5 million (3.7 million in the EU) by disability.
  • In most European countries, work-related cancer accounts for the majority of costs (€119.5 billion or 0.81 percent of the EU’s GDP), with musculoskeletal disorders being the second-largest contributor.

A new data visualization tool, developed by EU-OSHA as part of the project, also was unveiled at the World Congress. It shows the global costs of work-related illnesses and accidents in an accessible way. Key results are presented as infographics, allowing researchers and policy-makers to explore the findings quickly and easily.

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