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New poll reveals that 19% of workers – 600 million people worldwide – have been seriously injured at work

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Farmer working the field

How we earn a living remains a major threat to our physical and mental health affecting people in different ways depending on where they live on the planet.

47% 47%

The Poll found that 47% of workers experiencing harassment or violence also experienced mental health issues.

Workplace Hazards: A Global Divide in Risks to Physical and Mental Health

The toxic work environments faced by millions have been revealed by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll, the first ever global study of worry and risk across the world.  The poll was conducted by Gallup as part of its World Poll and is based on interviews with over 150,000 people in 142 countries, including places where little or no official data exists yet where risks reported in the poll are often high.

How we earn a living remains a major threat to our physical and mental health affecting people in different ways depending on where they live on the planet. The World Risk Poll paints a picture of two worlds: low-income economies, where the most dangerous jobs are in agriculture and fishing; and high-income economies where the biggest threats are to mental health from workplace harassment and violence.

Significant numbers, and as many as 50 per cent in some countries, have experienced violence and harassment in the workplace.  Forty-seven per cent of workers experiencing harassment or violence also experienced mental health issues.

Violence and harassment at work is recorded as being a concern for working people across the globe. Seventeen per cent of working people worry about violence and harassment and 12 per cent experience this.  Malawi has the greatest level of worry about violence and harassment with 75 per cent of working people worrying about it and 45 per cent of workers experiencing violence and harassment. Violence and harassment is one of the top reported concerns at work in some high-income countries, higher than a range of physical issues.

In developing economies, men and women are similarly concerned about threats of physical violence and harassment and are more than twice as likely to identify this as a risk than the average global worker. Nearly 39 per cent of men and 36 per cent of women in low-income economies cited violence and harassment as risks. In high-income economies the gender gap is bigger with the World Risk Poll recording 24 per cent of women compared to 18 per cent of men saying physical violence or harassment at work is a threat. In Finland 42 per cent of women worry about violence and harassment, in France 38 per cent and in Australia 32 per cent.

Overall men, and especially young men, experience more injuries than women.  The World Risk Poll recorded a gender gap of 23 per cent of men compared to 14 per cent of women having been seriously injured at work.  Men are more likely to do dangerous, physically taxing roles such as working on the land, at sea and in construction or manufacturing.  The poll found this to be the case in every region with injuries generally lower for women as a result.

For the first time, we are hearing the voices of workers across the world talking about the risks they experience at work, rather than relying on available statistics. The findings portray the hidden human cost of our global economy. In the same way the world is increasingly balancing economic growth with climate impact, we urge world leaders, businesses and regulators to use the findings of the World Risk Poll to balance economic development with making work safer and less damaging to our health and wellbeing.

Professor Richard Clegg, Former Chief Executive, Lloyd's Register Foundation

The planet’s most dangerous places to work are the fields and fishing boats of some of the poorest countries in the world.  Thirty-four per cent of farmers, agricultural labourers and fishers in low-income countries were recorded by the World Risk Poll as having been seriously injured at work, and 32 percent in lower middle-income countries. In some countries the figures are significantly higher than the average. For example, 69 per cent workers in Sierra Leone say they have been injured at work - more than 57 per cent of the country’s GDP comes from agriculture.

The next most dangerous jobs in the world are in construction and manufacturing. In low-income countries 37 per cent of workers in these areas of work reported being seriously injured at work with some regions reporting even higher numbers. In East Africa, for example, 40 per cent of workers in these jobs reported serious injuries, with the Middle East and West and Central Africa at 38 per cent.

The poll also reveals the proportion of workers in each country who have experienced significant workplace risks including fire, using mechanical and heavy machines and exposure to chemicals and biological hazards.

Fire was the second most-mentioned risk in the Middle East and throughout most of Africa and Asia, potentially reflecting a number of high-profile fires across the regions that killed thousands of low paid workers, such as the Rana Plaza fire in Bangladesh in 2013.

A better understanding of how people perceive the risks at work can help employers, unions, industry bodies and regulators to prioritise measures to reduce harm and can empower workers themselves to take actions that reduce their risks.

Professor Richard Clegg, Chief Executive, Lloyd’s Register Foundation