Occupational accidents and work-related diseases have a major impact on individuals and their families, not only in terms of economics, but also in terms of their physical and emotional wellbeing in the short and long term. Moreover, they can have major effects on companies, affecting productivity, leading to potential disruptions of production processes, obstructing competitiveness and the reputations of companies along supply chains, and impacting on the economy and society more widely.
Aside from the economic cost, there is an intangible cost that is not fully recognized, of the immeasurable human pain caused by occupational accidents and work-related diseases. This is regrettable because, as research and practice over the past century has repeatedly demonstrated, they are largely preventable.
Psychosocial risks, work-related stress and non-communicable diseases are of growing concern for many workers in all parts of the world. At the same time, many workers remain challenged by persistent work-related health and safety risks and it is important not to overlook the workers who face these risks as we look to the future.
It is a global imperative that these challenges are addressed with effective prevention strategies. Achieving effective prevention, however, remains a major challenge in addressing global occupational health and safety.
Health and safety at work can be key to sustainable development and investment in occupational health and safety can help contribute to the achievement of decent work. A considerable task remains for governments, employers, workers and more stakeholders in making present and future generations of safe and healthy workers. Crucially, the global burden of occupational accidents, work-related diseases and deaths, is a significant contributor to the growing global issue of non-communicable and chronic diseases.
When we look to the future of health and safety at work, we should also observe the developments in the past century. Over the last century, addressing occupational accidents, work-related diseases and deaths has been increasingly recognized as a major international challenge relevant to achieving social justice and sustainable development.
It is now widely acknowledged that important occupational health and safety gains can be made from improving and sharing knowledge and experience concerning the extent, causes and prevention of harm arising from work and how worker health and well-being can be better supported. It is also understood that, while there are enormous national and regional differences in the ways in which workplace hazards and risks are experienced, there is nevertheless much in common with regard to the principles of prevention and control of their harmful effects.
Although the importance of improving safety and health at work is increasingly widely recognized, providing an accurate picture of its global scale remains difficult. The systematic collection and analysis of reliable and comparable data have varied both geographically and over time, which means that comparing trends and data is challenging.