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Work-related harm remains one of the most under-estimated risks globally

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A group of miners working, their uniforms are dirty. They can be seen operating heavy machinery.

New data from the World Risk Poll reveals that in 2021, almost a quarter (24%) of people worldwide said they or someone they know had experienced serious harm from the work they did; but fewer than one in five (19%) worry that they might be harmed at work.

This gap between people’s perceptions of risk and their experience of risk while at work highlights a safety challenge, as people may underestimate the possibility of being injured in the workplace.

This trend was primarily driven by the Northern/Western Europe (12% experienced, 6% worried) and Southern Europe (20% experienced, 6% worried) regions. However, countries as diverse as Italy, Switzerland, Afghanistan, and Vietnam stood out as places where the percentage of workers who had personally experienced work-related harm in the past two years was particularly high relative to their level of worry about work-related risks.

Italy is the most pronounced national example of this trend, with more than a third (36%) saying they have experienced harm from work – and a further 18% knowing someone who has – but only 16% saying they are very worried about it.

A Changed World? Perceptions and experiences of risk in the Covid age

Read the report

Financially vulnerable workers were most likely to report work-related harms

Experience of work-related harm was most common among low-income workers, who are more likely to have jobs involving physical labour, such as agricultural work, or in manufacturing settings, where hazards are more common. In 2021, a quarter (25%) of workers worldwide who said they were finding it ‘very difficult’ to get by on their current income had personally experienced serious workplace harm in the past two years, compared with 9% of those who reported they were ‘living comfortably’ on their current income and 10% who were ‘getting by.’

More than a third of people said they were very worried about work-related harm in Central/Western Africa (37%) and Southern Africa (34%), closely followed by South Asia (32%) and Eastern Africa (30%).

Dr. Sarah Cumbers Former Director of Evidence and Insight, Lloyd’s Register Foundation

The World Risk Poll highlights clear gaps between perception and experience of work-related harm. Understanding these gaps can help policymakers and businesses address these commonly experienced but under-estimated risks, informing effective interventions and communications.

A photograph of a child farming a field. He is barefoot.

Where do people most worry about and experience serious work-related harm?

Have you, or someone you personally know, experienced serious harm from work in the past two years?

An infographic of a world map showing the countries that experienced or know someone that has experienced serious harm from work in the past two years. These countries are Italy and Mali (54%), Sierra Leone (43%) and Cameroon (42%). The countries that were most worried about work causing harm were Mali (61%), Mozambique (59%), Guinea (56%), Sierra Leone (48%) and Congo Brazzaville (43%).

Download the report

A Changed World? Perceptions and experiences of risk in the Covid age

This first report of the 2021 World Risk Poll provides new global insights that identify the differences between people’s thoughts about, and experiences of risk before and after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. (PDF, 3.15MB)