Globalization can be defined as the industrialization of the world. However, a more pragmatic definition might be the transfer of manufacturing from Established Economic Markets (USA and European Community as defined by the World Bank) to 'developing' economic markets. As such, the transference of manufacturing to areas with little or no infrastructure to ensure the health and safety of their workforces, these economic markets find that their rates of work-related injuries have skyrocketed. Although the globalization of economies has brought economic growth and new prosperity to many regions of the world, it has also brought with it an increasing safety concern. Although there are certainly threats to workplace health and safety, there are also opportunities for the international community. Worldwide cooperation, exchange of information, exchange of stories of success and failure, and international networks of Ergonomists, Industrial Hygienists, Safety Professionals and Public Health Professionals will create a collaboration that will be part of the solution than part of the problem through individual efforts. Approaches such as:
grass-roots citizen efforts;
publication of success stories;
and a focus on practical solutions that have an immediate impact on worker health and safety while supporting productivity and competitiveness will have an impact on improving working conditions around the world. The world is truly a small place, where the impact is one region is truly felt globally.
The demands of new technologies and growing economies have led to the globalization of manufacturing, assembly and service industries. The globalization of the workplace and the multi-national configuration of organizations have created an environment for personnel and managers of constant change within the area of occupational and environmental health in which safety, human factors and ergonomics play vital roles. Ergonomists, Safety and Human Factors Specialists and Industrial Hygienists often find it difficult to stay abreast of current information eeded to stay in the forefront of important workplace issues. The most critical areas of concern are: communication, understanding, cultural differences and educational level of the workforce.
The international Labor Office (ILO, 2005) indicated that 2.2 million people die of work-related accidents and diseases each year, that's about 5,000 per day, every day. However, due to poor reporting and surveillance stems in many countries, the number is probably vastly under estimated. Such poor reporting and lack of surveillance is due to rapid development and strong competitive pressures of globalization. Approximately 4% of the world's GNP is lost due to work related injuries and deaths.