Part 1: Behind the brew

Coffee’s global impact and challenges

The coffee industry’s remarkable growth

Key numbers:

  • 3 billion cups of coffee consumed globally per day
  • 50 countries commercially manufacturing coffee
  • $200 billion generated annually from the coffee industry

Source: International Trade Centre

The coffee industry has grown rapidly over the past decades, and so has the number of organizations and workers behind its production. Thousands of coffee workers worldwide experience work-related injuries and illnesses yearly. Many of these can be prevented through the establishment of OSH management systems that guarantee adequate access to information, training, and health services.

Every coffee worker, in every job, has the right to a safe and healthy working environment. As per the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations must uphold these basic human values that are vital to our social and economic lives.

Work-related injuries and illnesses in coffee production

The safety and health risks that coffee plantation workers are exposed to can influence their well-being. Agrochemicals, such as insecticides and fertilizers, offer serious dangers when used over an extended time. Without the necessary safety gear or training, employees may experience respiratory problems, skin rashes, or long-term health issues as a result of the harmful compounds used in farming techniques. 

Statistics of work-related deaths globally:

In addition, the physically taxing nature of coffee cultivation, which requires jobs like repetitive bending, carrying heavy loads, and working in awkward positions, can lead to musculoskeletal diseases, back discomfort, and chronic injuries. Working in harsh weather conditions like intense heat or torrential rain might result in heat-related diseases or accidents. And a lack of access to sanitary facilities, clean water, and hygienic practices may facilitate the development of diseases like gastroenteritis or vector-borne illnesses.

Promoting global protection for coffee workers

The secret behind great coffee is the people behind it. It is the entire supply chain, from the workers who plant the seeds, harvest them, and process them, to the factory that packages them and the barista that makes them in your favorite cafe. It’s time to rally together to support, pledge, and advocate for improved OSH in the coffee industry.