By Sola Ogundipe

Working long hours is may lead to unexpected work-related death, according to  the  World Health Organisation, WHO, and the International Labour Organisation, ILO.

Joint estimates by the two organisations show that almost two million people die worldwide from long working hours, pollution and poor conditions, contributing to the increasing trend of death from work-related causes.

According to findings by the Global Monitoring Report, 81 per cent of the 1.9 million work-related deaths in 2016 occurred as a result of non-communicable diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke and ischemic heart disease (heart ailments caused by narrowed heart arteries), while 19 percent were caused by work-related injuries including road injuries, falls, drowning and injuries by mechanical forces.

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The general standard according to ILO is 48 regular hours of work per week, with a maximum of eight hours per day.

The WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, described the findings as a wake-up call to countries and businesses to improve and protect the health and safety of workers.

“It’s shocking to see so many people literally being killed by their jobs,” Tedros noted.

From the estimates, work-related exposure to gases, fumes and particulate matter led to an estimated 450,000 deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“The risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease has been estimated to be increased by 58—182 per cent among people occupationally exposed to particulate matter, gases and fumes, compared with people unexposed to this occupational risk factor,” the report says.

According to the WHO “deaths from heart disease and stroke associated with exposure to long working hours rose by 41 and 19 per cent respectively.

This reflects an increasing trend in this relatively new and psychosocial occupational risk factor”.

Yuka Ujita, senior specialist at ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, says 19 major occupational risk factors and their associated health outcomes were analysed to obtain a precise estimate of the number of work-related deaths.

Frank Pega, technical officer for environment, climate change, and health at WHO and lead author of the report, noted that in low- and middle-income countries, the largest risk factor is exposure to long working hours.

He said workers in the informal economy living in poverty may be forced to work long hours for survival.

Workers in industries with poor working conditions and are exposed to high levels of air pollution are more prone to suffer deaths from stroke, heart disease, and diseases of the lung.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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