Monday 23 March 2009
Accidents, illness, and premature deaths threaten the health of 130 million workers in the United States. Occupational health risks are even greater in developing countries, where children and women constitute a larger proportion of the work force. In the United States, the annual rate of occupational injuries is 7400 per 100,000 workers.
The overall fatality rate is 4.8 per 100,000 workers; the highest rates occur in the mining, agricultural, construction, transportation, and public utility industries. In addition to physical injury, occupational exposures contribute to a wide range of illnesses that may lead to premature death.
The magnitude of occupational diseases is most likely underestimated because workers and their employers fear economic or legal pressures, physicians may not recognize that an illness is work related, and there may be a long latent period between exposure and the development of clinical illness.
Nevertheless, occupational diseases are preventable if there is adequate surveillance by state and federal governments, responsible leadership in industry, and access to health professionals trained in occupational safety and health.