Red alert as 2.78 million workers die from job related risks, diseases

Worker lose body parts while operating machines while others battle chronic conditions due to exposure to dangerous chemicals.

As the World Day for Safety and Health is marked today, the UN reveals that 2.78 million workers die every year from occupational accidents and work-related diseases.

According to the International Labour Organisation, 2.4 million of these deaths are disease-related. The report also says 374 million workers suffer from non-fatal occupational accidents every year, besides other costs.

“Aside from the economic cost, there is an intangible cost, not fully recognised in these figures, of the immea-surable human suffering caused by poor occupational safety and health (OSH) conditions. This is tragic and regrettable because, as research and practice over the past century has repeatedly demonstrated, this suffering is largely preventable,” said ILO ahead of the celebrations.

The organisation is warning of psycho-social risks, work-related stress and non-communicable diseases across the world.

In Kenya, although there are no defined statistics of how many workers are dying, anecdotes of people who lost body parts while operating machines, or those battling chronic conditions due to exposure to dangerous chemicals tell the tale of the dangers people face while at work.

From office managers whose backs are breaking for sitting too long, to domestic servants who spend hours with hands in water, workers are continually at risk. 

Mental health, a major component of health at work is often ignored, and people attempt to navigate through their respective assignments without seeking help for mental conditions – some of which are aggravated by work.  


Occupational diseases are often underestimated and under-diagnosed because some of them, such as long exposure to chemicals, radiation and extreme weather conditions can take long to manifest.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Plan of Action on Workers’ Health has called for improving the diagnosis, reporting and registration of occupational diseases and building capacities for estimating the occupational burden of diseases.

Most employers and workers in the country are however ignorant on the safety precautions they should put in place to avoid accidents at work. A spot check at several offices and homes reveals that basic items such as First Aid kits and fire extinguishers are missing. Most workers are also not aware of exit points to use in their offices in case of emergency.