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In Finland, the number of work-related accidents has diminished. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Work is deadly for many people in the world. According to updated calculations, 2.8 million fatal accidents occur at work yearly. Every day almost 7,700 persons die of work-related diseases or injuries.

In Finland, however, deaths related to accidents at work are decreasing.

Here, about 30 people get killed per year due to accidents at work – a number that has been split in half in about two decades. According to Senior Officer Päivi Hämäläinen from the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, 15 years ago work-related accidents killed about 50 to 60 people in Finland yearly.

These new reduced numbers make Finland a leading example in work safety.

The downward trend can be explained by the advancements in occupational health and work safety but also partly by the fall-off of industrial production.

In the global context, deaths due to occupational diseases create a much larger group than deaths due to accidents at work. Diseases of the circulatory system caused 31 percent of those deaths, work-related cancers 27 percent and diseases of the respiratory system 17 percent. Approximately 2,200 deaths are estimated to occur in Finland due to work-related diseases.

Most of the work-related deaths occur in Asia. During recent years, a large amount of industrial production has moved to Asia or been established there, which has increased work-related deaths.

Industrial production has a significant impact on the number of accidents at work. In Europe, however, the share of work-related diseases is growing. Particularly work-related cancers cause deaths among the European population.

“One of the reasons (for the increasing number of cancers) is probably that people live longer,” Hämäläinen said.

Background: The International Labour Organisation ILO published these figures in their latest updates on Sunday, September 3 at the ILO World Congress on Safety and Health at Work. This was the fifth time these statistics were published. The calculations were made in Finland. The latest calculations were made by the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and checked in Singapore by the Workplace Safety and Health Institute and the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH). The earlier calculations had been made by the Tampere University of Technology and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.