Every year, there are hundreds of deaths and many thousands of hospitalisations and ACC claims caused by long-term exposure to health risks at work. In fact, the burden on workers, their families and the wider economy from work-related ill-health far outweighs the burden from work-related injuries

WorkSafe has released new information on work-related health harm in New Zealand informed by new data.

  • Work-related health deaths are estimated at 750-900 a year.
  • There are an estimated 5,000-6,000 hospitalisations each year due to work-related ill-health.
  • A worker is 15 times more likely to die from a work-related disease than from a work accident.

A work-related injury is often immediately visible. However, the effects of exposure to a work-related health hazard may not become visible for days, months or even decades. 

By law, businesses must manage both the health and safety risks caused by their work. That includes managing mental as well as physical health risks.

WorkSafe needs to understand the impact of work-related disease to develop effective ways to improve work-related health. It has used work-related health estimates and disease burden estimates to produce a measure of the quality and length of life lost to injuries and illness. This disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost measure puts a value on the burden of harm from work-related ill-health and injury. WorkSafe has calculated that 50,000 work-related DALYs are lost annually. This translates into a social cost of at least $2 billion each year.

The calculations show that acute injuries (including fatalities) account for 11% of work-related disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost. Musculoskeletal harm accounts for 27%, mental health harm 17%, cancers 16% and respiratory harm 14%.

For more information, see work-related health estimates and burden of harm.