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The Chairman's Blog
Did You Risk Your Life Today?
The Chairman's Blog

Did You Risk Your Life Today?

Did You Risk Your Life Today?

Gallup and Lloyd's Register Foundation just completed the first-ever global study of risk in our lives -- the Lloyd's Register Foundation World Risk Poll. It includes 150,000 people's opinions across 142 countries and territories and covers 98% of the world's adult population.

Nobody has ever checked in with the whole world on the presence of risk in their lives.

The Lloyd's Register Foundation World Risk Poll uncovered its biggest surprise and breakthrough deep in the data. One of the riskiest and potentially deadly moments in any day in an Earthling's life is … at work. This applies primarily to jobs with physical activities, but not exclusively. Most of us have had a job at one time in our life where there was a real risk of a fatal accident of some kind.

The International Labour Organization estimates that nearly 3 million people die from occupational accidents and work-related diseases every year. More than 350 million suffer non-fatal work-related injuries.

One of the riskiest and potentially deadly moments in any day in an Earthling's life is at work.

The Lloyd's Register Foundation World Risk Poll found this: Among the world's 3 billion workers (which includes full- and part-time workers), nearly one in five reports they have been seriously injured at work at some point in their careers. The quick math is approximately 600 million global workers report being seriously injured on the job.

Here is what you need to know. Only 3% of global citizens list "work-related accidents" as their riskiest moment every day. Many more people in the world -- 24% -- identify road-related accidents as one of their two biggest safety risks, according to the World Risk Poll. Of all the threats one might feel anywhere in the world, this one comes out first to citizens -- in a car, on a bike, motorcycle, scooter, in a market stall, walking or crossing the road. That is when we feel we are in the most danger.

It makes sense because the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 1.3 million people are killed this way per year worldwide -- and 20 to 50 million more are injured. That's 3,700 people killed per day.

Yet the risk of death or injury at work is far greater. And when you overlay "risk at my job" with "risk of commuting there" it is the moment every day with the highest risk in our lives. Nothing else is close.

War deaths are tiny next to work deaths. Deaths from the coronavirus will never catch the ultra-deadly combination of "risk at my job" and "risk of commuting there" either.

When the Lloyd's Register Foundation World Risk Poll asked the 3 billion workers about reporting high-risk activities at work, a full 14% told us they don't feel comfortable reporting it without fear of punishment. We could save a bunch of workers each year just by increasing communication from the floor to the executive wing.

Our acceptance of being killed in one way over another is hard to understand.

Beyond the finding of risk of death at work, what is most interesting to me about the Lloyd's Register Foundation World Risk Poll discoveries is what we can get used to -- what is an acceptable death rate to all of us. We get up and go to work and the risk of being killed that day on a road is higher than for any other activity except work -- just a couple natural causes of death (like disease) take more lives in a day. Apparently, we accept road-associated death as a part of life.

Here is a mind-bender. If one person is killed by a shark off the coast of Melbourne or Miami, it is worldwide news. Yet on average, only four people are killed around the world by sharks per year -- not per day -- per year.

Sharks cause far more fear than traveling by road but infinitely less real risk in our lives. Yet we just can't get used to the fact that four people out of 7 billion will die by shark attack this year because death by shark is just that awful -- but we have gotten used to 1.3 million deaths on the road. That one makes sense and death by shark doesn't.

What if we treated road deaths like shark attacks? They are gruesome too.

Same with airplane crashes. We feel enormous risk, but our chances of being killed are just 2.8 for every 1 million departures, which suggests the odds of an accident are close to zero. And, of course, plane crashes make the news but not the 3,700 killed that single day on the road.

Our acceptance of being killed in one way over another is hard to understand.

An almost never-reported extraordinary risk factor in the U.S. is just being in a hospital. Johns Hopkins reported that medical errors in hospitals cause the deaths of 250,000 patients per year. That many people are being killed by mistakes and there is hardly a peep about it. We accept that extraordinary risk in life too.

The role of risk in our lives plays tricks on us.

We buy insurance from a machine in airports to protect ourselves from the risk of dying in a plane crash that is close to zero, yet see no risk when we go to the hospital, which is one of the most dangerous places on Earth. We have different relationships to risk that don't follow real statistical risk calculations. We freak out over potential shark attacks, buy life insurance for a single flight to Athens, yet accept the real risk of death on roads and in hospitals as "the way it is."

Think of how differently our amygdala handles these two statements: "Uncle Bob passed away because they gave him the wrong medicine," versus, "Uncle Bob was killed by a shark." In either case, Bob is dead -- but we send the information of his death to vastly different places in our brain to be dealt with.

The role of risk in our lives plays tricks on us. And the role of risk in our lives needs a lot more explanation. This new institution of data on risk acceptance from the very mouths of humankind by Gallup and Lloyd's Register Foundation is a good start.

My first takeaway from this massive global study is that there is an infinite amount of low-hanging fruit in opportunities to save more lives, hurt fewer workers and create higher global wellbeing in the workplace. And it starts at the lowest of levels -- trying a lot harder not to kill workers.

My second takeaway is that "business as usual" is killing millions and maiming hundreds of millions at work and on the road to and from work. We need to consider putting it on the list of most-concerning risks to humankind along with others like climate change, pandemics and nuclear war.

Learn more about the Lloyd's Register Foundation World Risk Poll.

Author(s)

Jim Clifton is Chairman and CEO at Gallup.


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