Pope Francis spoke to the Italian National Association of Mutilated and Invalid Workers on Sept. 13 and used the time to discuss the tragedy of workplace accidents, Dexter Tilo of Human Resources Director New Zealand reported.

“We cannot get used to accidents at work nor resign ourselves to indifference towards them,” the Pope said. “We cannot accept the waste of human life. Deaths and injuries are a tragic social impoverishment that affects everyone, not just the companies or families involved.”

Earlier in September, five Italian workers died while replacing part of a railroad, which Reuters reported caused railway maintenance workers to go on strike for half of a day.

“I still have in mind those five brothers killed by a train while they were working,” Pope Francis said.

“Race for profit” should not be the top priority

The Pope said work accidents occur when the human race “becomes a machine for production.”

“This happens when work is dehumanized and, instead of being the tool through which human beings realize themselves by making themselves available to the community, it becomes an exasperated race for profit,” Pope Francis said. “And this is bad.”

The International Labour Organisation estimates that 2.3 million people globally suffer work accidents or diseases every day, which the organization’s website says causes 6,000 deaths per day.

Companies’ responsibilities should be to the workers

The Pope said companies should not make employees work too long, decrease concentration or skimp on safety and insurance, all in the “name of greater profit.” It is their responsibility to guarantee workers’ safety.

“Safety at work is an integral part of care for people,” Pope Francis said. “Indeed, for an employer, it is the first duty and the first form of good.”

Nevertheless, the Pope emphasized that companies typically care about their public image more than employees’ safety and are therefore likely to “carewash.”

“It happens when employers or legislators, instead of investing in safety, prefer to whitewash their consciences with some charitable work,” Pope Francis said. “It is bad. Responsibility towards workers is paramount: life is not sold for any reason, even more so if it is poor, precarious and fragile. We are human beings and not machines, unique persons and not spare parts. And very often, some workers are treated like spare parts.”