Posted: April 28, 2010

International Labour Organization warns of new health risks from emerging fields like nanotechnology

(Nanowerk News) The World Day for Safety and Health at Work will be observed widely this year against a backdrop of newly emerging hazards in the world of work and growing concern over the impact of the global economic crisis,” according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Many events are planned, including marches and memorial services, seminars, as well as conferences, exhibitions and workshops aimed at promoting dialogue on occupational safety and health (OSH). All activities aim to heighten awareness of OSH issues in the world of work and promote a culture of prevention.
“On this World Day we highlight the emerging risks and new approaches to prevention in a changing world of work,” said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia in a statement issued for the day, adding that one of the elements of concern was a “rise in psychosocial conditions linked to new stresses and strains of work in the global economy.”
“Recently the adverse impact of the economic crisis on enterprises has taken its toll on many workers,” Mr. Somavia said. “In building and sustaining recovery, let us draw on the opportunity to shape integrated decent work strategies in which safety and health is a key component. In the wake of the crisis, let us act together to prevent a downward spiral in labour conditions and build recovery founded on safe work.”
A booklet entitled “Emerging risks and new patterns of prevention in a changing world of work” published for the World Day summarizes key new OSH issues, including those related to technical innovations such as nanotechnology and biotechnology. The booklet says that OSH experts have noted with concern a rise in work-related stress disorders resulting from difficulties “coping with the changing patterns of working life.”
In addition, the ILO recently adopted a new list of occupational diseases which, for the first time, includes mental, behavioural and post-traumatic stress disorders. The ILO Governing Body also adopted a plan of action to achieve widespread ratification and effective implementation of the occupational safety and health instruments (Convention No. 155, its 2002 Protocol and Convention No. 187).
“Both this list and the existing ILO labour standards on OSH, provide a common framework for ILO member States ”said Seiji Machida, Director of the ILO’s Safe Work Programme. “The ILO calls for applying internationally-agreed labour standards as a primary tool to reduce human and economic burdens of work-related accidents and diseases.”
ILO estimates indicate that every day some 6,300 people die as a result of work-related injuries or diseases, representing more than 2.3 million deaths per year. In addition, some 337 million workplace accidents occur each year resulting in extended absences from work.
“The human cost of this daily tragedy is immeasurable“ Mr. Somavia said. “But the economic cost of working days lost, medical treatment and cash benefits paid out is estimated at 4 per cent of global GDP each year. This exceeds the total value of the stimulus packages introduced in the face of the economic crisis of 2008-09.“
Source: ILO