About 60% of these costs are caused by ill health and 40% by injuries.
The costs of human pain grief and suffering, though difficult to assesses, are estimated by the HSE to have been between 6.3 and 10.2 trillion pounds in 1995/96. Again, some 60% of these are caused by ill health and 40% by injuries. Finally, sick pay that employers pay to workers with occupational illnesses and injuries is high and growing every year as the medical system becomes increasingly bogged down in high pharmaceutical costs. In 1996, the total cost to British industry of suck pay was 1.2 trillion pounds.
As in most countries of the world, employees in small-scale industries are especially susceptible to workplace hazards (WHO). These are industries which tend not to require trade skills, and tend most not to be subject to, or at least tend not to conform to occupational health-and-safety provisions.
Workplace health hazards tend to differ from the hasards found in the non-work environment. In our general lives, we are susceptible to multiple factors that can negatively affect our health - unsafe housing, a polluted environment, poor diet, little exercise, economic stress, and the everyday challenges of modern life. In the workplace, there are additional stressors, including the hazards of indoor confinement, often in a toxic physical and/or emotional environment.
The following summary of major workplace hazards has been extracted from the Global strategy on occupational health for all, which was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1996 (WHO 1997).
Mechanical hazards are a common source of injury, through the mechanism of unshielded machinery, unsafe structures, dangerous tools. In Europe, about 10 million occupational accidents happen every year (some of them commuting accidents). The HSE holds the position that safer working practices, better safety systems and changes management practices can reduce accident rates, even in high-risk industries, by 50% or more within relatively short time periods of time.
Heavy physical workloads and other forms of ergonomically poor working conditions are the norm for about 30% of the workforce in developed countries, especially lifting and moving heavy items, and making numerous repetitive manual tasks. Workers most exposed to heavy physical stress include miners, farmers, lumberjacks, fishermen, construction workers, storage workers and healthcare personnel. Repetitive stress and static muscular load-bearing are also common among many industrial and service occupations and can lead to injuries and musculoskeletal disorders.
Other physical hazards in the workplace include noise, intense vibrations, smells, heat, and radiation, which can all affect health adversely. Every industry has its history of specific occupational hasards. Up to one third of workforce in developed countries (and as much as 80% of in developing countries) are exposed to such hazards. Especially high-risk sectors include manufacturing and construction, where all workers are really at risk, and injury levels tend to be high. Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most prevalent