Technical note of clarification regarding joint WHO/ILO Joint Estimates of the Work-related Burden of Disease and Injury

The new WHO/ILO joint estimates on the burden of disease and injuries show that in 2016, at least 1.9 million people died because of exposure to 19 major occupational risk factors. Moreover, due to these exposures almost 90 million healthy life years were lost. These estimates calculated using an innovative and evidence-based approach cannot be compared with previous estimates announced by the ILO in 2017, which referred to 2.7 million deaths attributable to work in 2015. The new figures do not indicate that there are less deaths attributed to exposure to occupational risks, but rather that there is now highly precise scientific evidence that at least 1.9 million deaths were caused by exposure to the 19 specific risk factors described.

The methodology used by the new WHO/ILO joint estimates analyses 19 major occupational risk factors and their associated health outcomes in order to derive a precise estimate of the number of work-related deaths. By linking a specific occupational risk factor to the health outcome (for example, the link between benzene and leukaemia), the new approach provides precise information and consequently enables targeted action to be taken to address more efficiently those risk factors.

In relation to non-fatal occupational accidents, ILO estimates reveal over 360 million cases in 2016, representing an increase when compared to the figures of 2010 (340 million).