Background: Around the globe, work has a heavy impact on health. To better advise policy makers, we assessed the global burden of disease and injury due to selected occupational hazards. This article presents an overview, and describes the methodology employed in the companion studies.
Methods: Using the World Health Organization (WHO) Comparative Risk Assessment methodology, we applied relative risk measures to the proportions of the population exposed to selected occupational hazards to estimate attributable fractions, deaths, and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). Numerous occupational risk factors had to be excluded due to inadequate global data.
Results: In 2000, the selected risk factors were responsible worldwide for 37% of back pain, 16% of hearing loss, 13% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), 11% of asthma, 8% of injuries, 9% of lung cancer, and 2% of leukemia. These risks at work caused 850,000 deaths worldwide and resulted in the loss of about 24 million years of healthy life. Needlesticks accounted for about 40% of Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C infections and 4.4% of HIV infections in health care workers.
Conclusions: Exposure to occupational hazards accounts for a significant proportion of the global burden of disease and injury, which could be substantially reduced through application of proven risk prevention strategies.
2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.