The Dangerous World of Work

People’s Voice Editorial

Amid the corporate media’s narrow focus on certain types of tragic deaths – police officers or high-paid celebrities, for example – a far bigger story is about the dangerous world of work. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that some 2.3 million people around the world succumb to work-related accidents or diseases every year – over 6000 deaths every single day. Worldwide, there are a shocking 340 million occupational accidents and 160 million victims of work-related illnesses annually. Some occupations are more hazardous than others, and a few countries provide better workplace protections, but the general message is clear: it’s risky to be a worker today, even after hundreds of years of struggles for improved safety on the job.

A few points raised by the ILO are worth noting. The turn back to capitalism in the CIS countries of the former Soviet Union allowed a handful of exploiters to seize enormous wealth, but the estimated annual number of fatal occupational accidents is over 11,000 cases. On a global scale, diseases related to work cause the most deaths among workers. Hazardous substances alone are estimated to cause 651,279 deaths a year. The construction industry has a disproportionately high rate of recorded accidents. Younger and older workers are particularly vulnerable. The ageing population in developed countries means that an increasing number of older persons are working and need special consideration, warns the ILO.

While many die on the job, the gap between workers and the wealthy capitalist class gets wider all the time. Tech change was supposed to cut working time and make our lives easier; instead, the rising pace and intensity of both our physical and mental labour take a deadly toll, as workers produce profits that the bosses never toiled to earn. Only under socialism will we be able to use new technology to improve our lives and protect the planet.

1,134 workers died on April 14, 2013 at Rana Plaza. They made clothing for companies including Canadian company Loblaws. This hammer and sickle was erected at the site in memory of the victims.

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