Cancer Tops Workplace Killer List

May 28, 2002 ( - The great outdoors is a dangerous workplace, but cancer is the top workplace killer worldwide, according to a new report.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), two million workers die each year due to accidents and illness caused by workplace-related hazards. 

Agriculture, which employs more than half of the world’s workers, also claims more than 50% of occupational fatalities, injuries and diseases, according to the report. Construction, logging, fishing, and mining are also among the more hazardous industries.    

Cancer Killer

However, the biggest killer in the workplace is cancer, causing about 640,000 or 32% of deaths.  The ILO report cited an estimate that “mortality from occupational exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (passive smoking at work) causes 2.8% of all lung cancers.”  About 200,000 fatalities result from chronic pulmonary disease, asthma, ischemic heart disease and cerebrovascular strokes caused by passive smoking, it added.

Other top causes were:

  • causing 23% of workplace deaths
  • accidents, 19%
  • communicable diseases, 17%, and
  • respiratory diseases, 7%

Substance “Abuse”

According to the report, hazardous substances kill 340,000 workers each year, with asbestos alone claiming about 100,000 lives.

Absences from work, sickness treatment, disability, and survivor benefits add up to roughly 4% of the world’s gross domestic product, according to Reuters.

Four out of five fatalities are men, while 12,000 children are killed in work-related circumstances each year.

The report also noted that the number of cases of work-related cancers and circulatory diseases – including hypertension caused by factors including stress – had increased.