Global estimates of the burden of injury and illness at work in 2012

Jukka Takala (Corresponding Author), Päivi Hämäläinen, Kaija Leena Saarela, Yoke Yun Loke, Kathiresan Manickam, Wee Jin Tan, Peggy Heng, Caleb Tjong, Guan Kheng Lim, Samuel Lim, Siok Lin Gan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

300 Citations (Scopus)


This paper reviews the present indicators, trends, and recent solutions and strategies to tackle major global and country problems in safety and health at work. The paper is based on the Yant Award Lecture of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, AIHA at the 2013 Congress. Methods We reviewed employment figures, mortality rates, occupational burden of disease and injuries, reported accidents, surveys on self-reported occupational illnesses and injuries, attributable fractions, national economic cost estimates of work related injuries and ill-health, and the most recent information on the problems from published papers, documents, and electronic data sources of international and regional organizations, in particular ILO, WHO and EU, institutions, agencies, and public websites. We identified and analyzed successful solutions, programmes and strategies to reduce the work-related negative outcomes at various levels. Results Work-related illnesses that have a long latency period and are linked to ageing are clearly on the increase, while the number of occupational injuries has gone down in industrialized countries thanks to both better preven-tion and structural changes. We have estimated that globally there are 2.3 million deaths annually for reasons attributed to work. The biggest component is linked to work-related diseases, 2.0 million, and 0.3 million linked to occupational injuries. However, the division of these two factors varies depending on the level of development. In industrialised countries the share of deaths caused by occupational injuries and work-related communicable diseases is very low while non-communicable diseases are the overwhelming causes in those countries. Economic costs of work-related injury and illness vary between 1.8-6% of GDP in country estimates, average being 4% as predicted by the International Labour Organization, ILO. Singapore economic costs were estimated to be equivalent to 3.2% of GDP based on a preliminary study. If economic losses would take into account involuntary early retirement then costs may be considerably higher, for example, in Finland up to 15% of GDP while this estimate covers various disorders where work and working conditions may be just one factor of many or where work may aggravate the disease, injury or disorder, such as traffic injuries, mental disorders, alcoholism and genetically induced problems. Workplace health promotion, services and safety and health management, however, may have a major preventive impact on those as well. Conclusion Leadership and management at all levels, and engagement of workers are key issues in changing the workplace culture. Vision Zero is a useful concept and philosophy in eliminating gradually any harm at work. Legal and enforcement measures that themselves support companies and organisations need to be supple-mented with economic justification and convincing arguments to reduce corner-cutting in risk management, and to avoid short and long-term disabilities, premature retirement, and corporate closures due to mismanagement and poor and unsustainable work life. We consider that a new paradigm is needed where good work is not just considered as a daily activity. We need to foster stable conditions and circumstances and sustainable work life where the objective is to maintain your health and work ability beyond the legal retirement age. We need safe and healthy work, for life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)326-337
JournalJournal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2014
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • global estimates
  • mortality
  • occupational safety and health
  • policy
  • program
  • work-related accident
  • work-related disease
  • burden of injury and illness at work
  • occupational exposures
  • occupational injuries
  • accidents


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