A Look at Workplace Fatalities in 2024

The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that nearly three million workers die annually due to work-related accidents and diseases, marking a 5% increase from 2015. 

The majority of these fatalities, totaling 2.6 million deaths, are attributed to work-related diseases, with an additional 330,000 deaths resulting from accidents at work. Circulatory diseases, malignant neoplasms, and respiratory diseases are the top three causes of work-related death, comprising over three-quarters of total mortality.

This data comes from the recent ILO report “A Call for Safer and Healthier Working Environments” which includes a variety of data related to dangerous workplaces. According to some of the demographic data, men are more affected by work-related incidents than women, and the Asia-Pacific region accounts for 63% of global work-related mortality due to its large workforce.

According to the report, the most hazardous work sectors include agriculture, construction, forestry, fishing, and manufacturing, responsible for 63% of all fatal occupational injuries annually. Agriculture has the highest proportion of fatal injuries among workers.

Let’s take a closer look at how employees in these industries are getting injured, and what can be done about it.

Fatal Workplace Diseases

The industries mentioned above – construction, agriculture, etc. – often involve physical exertion, exposure to dust and toxins, or working in extreme temperatures, all of which can contribute to the development of circulatory diseases, malignant neoplasms (cancers), and respiratory diseases. Let’s delve deeper into these common workplace diseases to understand why they happen and how they can be prevented.

Circulatory diseases

Circulatory diseases, also known as cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), affect the heart and blood vessels. They can include conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, and diseases of the arteries (such as atherosclerosis).

Risk factors for circulatory diseases include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. In the context of work-related health issues, circulatory diseases can be influenced by factors such as stress, long working hours, exposure to harmful chemicals, and poor working conditions.

According to the CDC, some of the occupations that are at high risk include truck drivers, first responders, food industry workers, fishers, and cargo workers.


Malignant neoplasms, commonly referred to as cancer, are a group of diseases characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells in the body. There are many types of cancer, each affecting different organs or tissues in the body. Common types include lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and leukemia, among others.

Risk factors for cancer can vary depending on the type but may include smoking, exposure to carcinogens (such as asbestos or certain chemicals), radiation exposure, genetic factors, and lifestyle factors like diet and physical activity.

In the workplace, exposure to carcinogenic substances, such as those found in certain chemicals, radiation, or fumes, can increase the risk of developing cancer. Occupational cancers are those that are directly caused by workplace exposures. Construction, painting, and agriculture are just a few of the jobs that have a high risk of exposure to carcinogens.

Respiratory diseases

Respiratory diseases affect the lungs and other parts of the respiratory system, impairing the ability to breathe and exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. Common respiratory diseases include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, and occupational lung diseases such as silicosis and asbestosis.

Risk factors for respiratory diseases include smoking, air pollution, exposure to allergens or irritants, occupational exposure to dust, chemicals, or fumes, and respiratory infections.

In the workplace, respiratory diseases can result from exposure to hazardous substances like dust, chemicals, or fumes, as well as poor ventilation and working in confined spaces.

These categories represent significant health concerns globally, and addressing them requires comprehensive strategies focusing on prevention, early detection, and management both in and out of the workplace. Those at the most risk work in mining, construction, farming, and the military.

Addressing These Issues

In the face of these dangerous occupational risks, the ILO has launched the Global Strategy on Occupational Safety and Health for 2024-2030. It emphasizes three pillars: improving national OSH frameworks, enhancing coordination and investment in OSH, and strengthening workplace OSH management systems. The strategy aims to prioritize worker well-being and aligns with the ILO’s commitment to social justice and decent work globally.

When workplace accidents do occur, it’s incredibly important for employees to seek immediate medical attention. There are many occupational injuries that may not seem serious at first but can worsen over time. If this does happen, having medical documentation of the injury will be paramount in getting compensation through workers’ compensation. A local work accident attorney can help you with this process.

Ultimately, it’s up to employers and regulators to ensure that occupational fatalities start decreasing. A job should place where a person puts in work to earn money, not somewhere they should fear for their life.