The Guardian May 3, 2000


Marking work-related deaths

The trade union movement last Friday marked the fifth International Day 
of Mourning for workers killed as a result of their employment. 
International Confederation of Trade Union figures reveal that more than 
1.1 million workers die from workplace related incidents around the world 
each year  almost 3,300 per day.

Of these approximately 12,000 workplace accidents claim the lives of 
children. Occupational diseases worldwide cause around 325,000 of the 1.1 
million deaths, mostly involving hazardous substances. Asbestos is the 
single largest killer, claiming 100,000 lives a year.

There are around 600 work-related fatalities recorded in Australia each 
year, according to the National Occupational Health and Safety Council.

But according to the Workers' Health Centre in Sydney, those figures are 
conservative. "Let us not forget those workers who have suffered fatal 
illness and disease from workplace exposures, said the Centre's Director, 
Peggy Trompf.

"Every year workers die from diseases like asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung 
and liver cancers that were caused by poor work conditions. Today there a 
still a number of workplaces around Sydney where many workers are exposed 
to conditions that can cause serious illness and fatal disease.

One research study, the Kerr Report of 1996, estimated that over 2,000 
people die each year in Australia from diseases caused by exposure to 
hazardous substances at work.

Fatality statistics also do not show the number of work-related deaths 
caused by depressive illnesses.

In Melbourne a meeting of occupational health and safety representatives 
was held at the Trade Hall where delegates addressed work-related suicide, 
early death due to exposure to asbestos and actions that can eliminate 
workplace deaths.

The European Union has called on all countries to place a ban on the 
importation and use of asbestos by the year 2002. The Trades Hall Council 
noted that the Howard Government has yet to even announce that it will 
comply to such a ban.

The United Trades and Labor Council of South Australia took up the theme 
"Protect Young Workers by Supporting Workplace Democracy, pointing out that 
one third of all workplace injury and disease occurs in the first six 
months of employment.

"Young workers need adequate induction into new work environments and all 
workers need to be consulted regarding occupational health and safety and 
changes at work.

The Work Injured Resource Connection group placed a permanent plaque in 
Pennington Gardens to recognise the work injury, death and disease, and the 
workers who suffered.

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