Causes and circumstances of accidents at work in the EU

A new report by the European Commission (Directorate-General for Employment,
Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities F4 unit) presents the detailed analysis
of causes and circumstances of accidents at work in the European Union. It
consists of two parts "Statistical analysis of ESAW Phase III data" and
"Implications on preventive measures". The aim of the first part is to describe
the situation regarding accidents at work in statistical terms using available
ESAW data, and in particular ESAW Phase III data related to the causes and
circumstances of accidents at work. On the basis of conclusions drawn from the
statistical analysis, the second part provides considerations and suggestions
on possible measures that could be implemented in the prevention of accidents
at work. It will be available in printed format in English and it is available
in electronic format in English, French and German.

Health and safety at work, in particular issues relating to accidents at work
in the European Union (EU), are one of the most important areas of action of
the European Union's social policy. The commitment to improve working
conditions for European workers began over half a century ago, in 1951, with
the signing of the treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community
(ECSC); this was later extended to all workers with the signing of the Treaty
of Rome. In 1987, the Single European Act opened a new chapter in the
protection of health and safety at work by providing a legal basis on which
wide-ranging legislation for the protection of workers could be built.

"Creating more and better jobs” is one of the strategic goals established by
the Lisbon European Council of March 2000. There is no doubt that health and
safety are fundamental elements in assessing the quality of jobs, and were
therefore included among the indicators chosen by the Commission in its
communication entitled "Employment and social policies: a framework for
investing in quality¹”.

A sustainable and durable reduction in the number of accidents at work and
occupational diseases is the prime objective of EU policies in the field of
health and safety at work. In its communication entitled "Improving quality
and productivity at work: Community strategy 2007-2012 on health and safety at
work”² the Commission has proposed the ambitious goal of achieving, by 2012, a
25 % reduction in the total incidence rate of accidents at work (number of
accidents at work per 100 000 workers) in the EU-27. This is to be achieved
through the creation of national strategies targeting the most common risks and
the most vulnerable sectors of activity, enterprises and workers.

On 2 July 2008, the European Commission adopted a renewed social agenda on
"Opportunities, access and solidarity in 21st century Europe", highlighting
the need to help people remain in employment for longer. To this effect,
improving the protection of workers against risks on the workplace has a
fundamental role to play.

Although legislative action is essential to promote better working conditions,
other instruments are also required to monitor progress and to make sure that
objectives have been attained. In this respect, statistical indicators have
been developed to enable a more detailed analysis of the causes and
circumstances of accidents at work so as to implement targeted preventive

European efforts towards the harmonisation of criteria and methodologies used
for data collection began in 1990. It should also be noted that on several
occasions the Council specifically requested the Commission to develop and
submit proposals for the harmonisation of statistics on accidents at work³.

Phases I and II of the ESAW4 methodology were implemented in 1993 and 1996
respectively. Phase I includes variables such as the sector of economic
activity of the employer; the occupation, age and sex of the victim; the type
of injury and part of the body injured and the place, date and time of the
accident. Phase II complements the above information by providing details on
the size of the enterprise, the victim's nationality and employment status,
and consequences of the accident in terms of number of work days lost, permanent incapacity or death.

All these variables aim to provide details on the enterprise, the victim, the
injury and its consequences and on the date and location of the accident.
Building on this, and in order to promote a more dynamic EU policy on the
prevention of accidents at work, Phase III of the ESAW methodology covers
additional variables and harmonised classifications relating to the causes and
circumstances of accidents at work, which will enable to establish the exact
conditions under which accidents occur. The results gained from these analyses
will make it possible to clearly define the new policies to be developed in the
prevention of accidents at work.

Phase III, relating to the causes and circumstances of accidents at work, was
gradually implemented in the Member States from 2001 onwards, according to
national schedules and taking account of the necessary adaptations of national
systems for the reporting and codification of accidents at work. Initial
results on data for 2001 were obtained for one group of Member States in 2003.
The most recent data are compiled with data from 2005 and already include Phase
III variables for 23 Member States.

The analysis of ESAW data and related conclusions can serve as a basis in the
development of appropriate prevention policies overal, both at sectoral and
enterprise level. Providing these data to enterprises will enable them to have
a broader perspective on the causes and circumstances of accidents at work in
relation to various factors associated to a specific
occupation and activity.

At national level, these data can serve as appropriate indicators in the
definition and implementation of targeted strategies for the prevention and
control of risks and in monitoring progress made in improving well-being at
work for EU citizens.

More information: - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work