Accidents at work - statistics by economic activity


Data extracted in July 2018.

Planned update: August 2019.

Highlights

Decrease of 10.3 % in the number of non-fatal accidents at work in the EU between 2010 and 2015.

In 2015, highest incidence of non-fatal accidents at work in the EU was observed in construction, with 2 852 such accidents per 100 000 persons employed.

In 2015, highest incidence of fatal accidents at work in the EU was observed in mining and quarrying, with 9.5 such accidents per 100 000 persons employed.

Incidence rate of non-fatal accidents at work, EU-28, 2010-2015

This article presents a set of main statistical findings in relation to indicators concerning non-fatal and fatal accidents at work in the European Union (EU); the statistics presented have been collected within the framework of the European statistics on accidents at work (ESAW) administrative data collection exercise. The particular focus of this article is an analysis of these statistics according to the type of activity in which accidents occur, distinguishing agriculture, forestry and fishing, mining and quarrying, manufacturing, construction and various services activities.


Full article

Developments over time

Non-fatal accidents

In 2015, there were just over 3.2 million non-fatal accidents that resulted in at least four calendar days of absence from work in the EU-28 (see Table 1). There was a decrease in the total number of non-fatal accidents at work in the EU-28 between 2010 and 2015, some 370 thousand fewer (equivalent to an overall reduction of 10.3 %). A closer examination reveals that the decrease was in fact recorded between 2010 and 2012, after which the number of non-fatal accidents at work was relatively stable, with changes between -1.2 % and 3.0 % each year during the period 2013-2015. The decrease in the incidence rate (number of non-fatal accidents at work for every 100 000 persons employed) between 2010 and 2015 (down 10.9 %) was slightly greater than the decrease for the number of non-fatal accidents, reflecting modest growth in the total number of persons employed.

In absolute terms, non-fatal accidents in the EU-28 were most common in manufacturing, where 625 thousand people had non-fatal accidents in 2015, 19.5 % of the total. Wholesale and retail trade (12.8 %), construction (11.6 %) and human health and social work activities (11.5 %) also accounted for more than one tenth of all non-fatal accidents at work.

However, given that the workforces of the activities are different in size, the incidence rate gives a clearer impression of where workers are more likely to encounter non-fatal accidents. In 2015, the highest incidence of non-fatal accidents at work in the EU-28 was observed in construction, with 2 852 such accidents per 100 000 persons employed. Transportation and storage (2 461 per 100 000) and administrative and support service activities (2 274 per 100 000) were the only other NACE sections with incidence rates above 2 000 per 100 000 persons employed. Among the activities shown in Table 1, the lowest incidence rate was for mining and quarrying, which also recorded the largest decrease in the incidence rate between 2010 and 2015. While incidence rates for non-fatal accidents at work were lower in 2015 than in 2010 for most activities, a relatively small increase was observed for human health and social work activities (0.6 %), a larger increase for public administration and defence (11.5 %) and a particularly large increase for agriculture, forestry and fishing (46.5 %). Note that for some EU Member States some of these changes may be linked to changes in coverage of specific activities linked to the end of derogations or voluntary data collection.
Table 1: Non-fatal accidents at work, by economic activity, EU-28, 2010-2015
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_01)

Fatal accidents

In 2015, there were 3 876 fatal accidents in the EU-28 (see Table 2), resulting in a ratio of approximately 830 non-fatal accidents for every fatal accident.

There was a decrease in the total number of fatal accidents at work in the EU-28 between 2010 and 2015, some 573 fewer (equivalent to an overall reduction of 12.9 %). During this period the number of fatal accidents initially decreased from 4 449 to 3 674 by 2013 (down 17.4 %) before increasing 5.5 % between 2013 and 2015. The decrease in the incidence rate (number of fatal accidents at work for every 100 000 persons employed) between 2010 and 2015 (down 13.3 %) was slightly greater than the decrease for the number of fatal accidents. As such, the number and incidence of fatal accidents fell faster between 2010 and 2015 than did the equivalent indicators for non-fatal accidents.

In absolute terms, fatal accidents were most common in construction, where 815 people in the EU-28 had fatal accidents in 2015, 21.0 % of the total. Manufacturing (17.0 %), transportation and storage (16.5 %) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (13.2 %) also accounted for more than one tenth of all fatal accidents at work. In 2015, the highest incidence of fatal accidents at work was observed in mining and quarrying, with 73 fatal accidents, equivalent to 9.5 per 100 000 persons employed.Construction (6.2 per 100 000), transportation and storage (5.8 per 100 000) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (5.7 per 100 000 persons employed) were the only other NACE sections with incidence rates above 2.0 per 100 000 persons employed. Among the activities shown in Table 2, the lowest incidence rate was for human health and social work activities, which also recorded the largest decrease in its incidence rate between 2010 and 2015. While incidence rates for fatal accidents at work — as for non-fatal accidents —were lower in 2015 than in 2010 for most activities, a relatively small increase was observed for administrative and support service activities (2.7 %) and larger increases for accommodation and food service activities (22.8 %) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (24.1 %). Note again that these increases may be linked to the end of some existing derogations.
Table 2: Fatal accidents at work, by economic activity, EU-28, 2010-2015
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_02)

Analysis of non-fatal accidents by sex and age

Accidents at work were more likely to involve men than women. In 2015, more than two out of every three (68.4 %) non-fatal accidents at work in the EU-28 involved men, a ratio of 2.2 accidents involving men for every accident involving a woman. To some extent this reflects the fact that more men than women work and so the difference in the incidence rates is slightly smaller, a ratio of 1.9 : 1. Another factor that influences gender differences is the different types of work that men and women carry out and the activities in which they work. For example, as already noted, incidence rates were highest in construction as well as transportation and storage activities, which tend to be male-dominated, as are agriculture, forestry and fishing as well as manufacturing, both of which have above average incidences of non-fatal accidents. Furthermore, it is also generally the case that men tend to work on a full-time basis, whereas women are more likely to work on a part-time basis; as such, with women spending a shorter period of time (on average) in the workplace this may also reduce their chances of having an accident.

Focusing on the 10 activities presented in Table 3, the three highest incidence rates for non-fatal accidents at work among women in the EU-28 in 2015 were for transportation and storage, human health and social work activities, and accommodation and food service activities (which for men had the third, sixth and ninth highest rates). For men, construction, administrative and support service activities, and transportation and storage had the three highest rates (which for women were the ninth, fourth and first highest rates). The difference in the incidence rates for men and women in construction was particularly large, with the rate 5.8 times as high for men as for women, perhaps reflecting differences in the types of occupations of men and women in this activity. In a similar fashion, the incidence rate for men was 4.6 times as high as for women in mining and quarrying, although for both sexes this activity had the lowest incidence rate of non-fatal accidents. None of the 10 activities had a higher incidence rate for women than for men, with the closest rates observed for human health and social work activities.
Table 3: Non-fatal accidents at work, by economic activity, EU-28, 2015
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_01)

From Figure 1 it can be seen in which activities workers of particular age ranges make up a greater or lesser share of workers having suffered a non-fatal accident at work. It should be borne in mind that the age profile of the workforce may vary between activities: for example the proportion of older workers in some physically demanding activities (like mining and quarrying, or construction) might be low, resulting in a lower share of accidents among older workers (if all other things are equal); or, in activities requiring relatively highly levels of qualifications there may be a smaller proportion of relatively young people resulting in a lower share of accidents among younger workers.

Young workers, aged less than 25 years, accounted for 11.9 % of all non-fatal accidents at work in the EU-28 in 2015, but this share was slightly higher in manufacturing (12.1 %), administrative and support service activities (13.3 %), construction (13.8 %) and wholesale and retail trade (14.9 %), and much higher in accommodation and food service activities (22.3 %); the last two of these are activities which have a large share of younger workers in general.

Older workers, aged 55 and over, accounted for 15.8 % of non-fatal accidents. Higher shares of non-fatal accidents among older workers were reported for transportation and storage (16.1 %), human health and social work activities (19.2 %), public administration and defence (20.2 %) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (23.6 %); all of these have an above average share of older workers in their workforces, particularly agriculture, forestry and fishing.
Figure 1: Non-fatal accidents at work, by age and economic activity, EU-28, 2015
(% of non-fatal accidents for each activity)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_03)

Severity of accidents

The data presented in Figure 2 include information for non-fatal and fatal accidents. This analysis identifies the number of calendar days during which the victim was unfit for work (excluding the day of the accident itself), or whether there was a permanent incapacity or death (within one year of the accident) as a result of the accident at work.

In the EU-28, more than three fifths (62.4 %) of accidents at work in 2015 involved the victim being unfit for work for less than three months, while some 8.0 % were for longer periods (or resulted in permanent incapacity) and 0.1 % were fatal; for the remaining 29.5 % of cases the severity (in terms of duration of being unfit for work) was unknown.

Accidents at work resulting in the victim being unfit for work for less than three months made up a relatively large proportion of accidents at work in the EU-28 in 2015 in most service activities shown in Figure 2, most notably for human health and social work activities (68.9 %), accommodation and food service activities (71.2 %) and public administration and defence (78.8 %).

By contrast, the share of workplace accidents that were non-fatal but resulted in the victim being unfit for work for three months or more made up a relatively large share of all workplace accidents for mining and quarrying (15.9 %) in the EU-28 in 2015, close to double the average for all activities (8.0 %); none of the other activities shown in Figure 2 reported accidents with longer absences from work accounting for more than one tenth of all workplace accidents.

Fatal accidents accounted for 0.2 % or less of workplace accidents in most activities in the EU-28 in 2015, with an average of 0.1 % across all activities. Agriculture, forestry and fishing (0.3 %) and mining and quarrying (0.7 %) reported higher shares.

It should be noted that the share of unknown severity also varies greatly between activities in 2015, from just 12.0 % for public administration and defence to 40.1 % for agriculture, forestry and fishing across the EU-28. The shares of the known severities (when combined) are underestimated to a greater extent for the activities with high shares of unknown severity.
Figure 2: Accidents at work, by severity and economic activity, EU-28, 2015
(% of accidents for each activity)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_04)

Analysis by enterprise size class

Earlier in this article it was explained that the underlying age structure of the workforce is a factor in the distribution of accidents by age group, and a similar situation occurs for the analysis by size class presented in Figures 3 and 4: activities are made up micro, small, medium-sized or large enterprises to a greater or lesser extent. For example, agriculture, forestry and fishing, construction, and wholesale and retail trade all have a very large number of smaller enterprises. Another issue to be considered is that the reporting of (non-fatal) accidents may also be influenced by enterprise size.

Non-fatal accidents

Concerning the share of non-fatal accidents within the smallest enterprises — those with no employees (just self-employed and unpaid family workers) — one activity stands out: in agriculture, forestry and fishing, 20.6 % of non-fatal accidents at work in the EU-28 in 2015 were in this size class, compared with an average of 2.1 % across all activities — see Figure 3. The particularly high share in this smallest size class enterprise within agriculture, forestry and fishing influenced the average for all activities such that it was the only activity where this share was above average, as the next highest share for enterprises with no employees was 1.3 % for transportation and storage.

Four activities recorded relatively high shares of non-fatal accidents at work among the broader category of micro enterprises (with 0 or 1-9 employees) in 2015 in the EU-28, namely accommodation and food service activities (27.8 %), construction (32.1 %) and public administration and defence (34.2 %) alongside agriculture, forestry and fishing (36.8 %); these shares can be compared with an average of 19.1 % across all activities. Small enterprises (with 10-49 employees) had a particularly large share of non-fatal accidents at work in construction (34.1 %) and accommodation and food service activities (32.3 %), compared with an average of 21.4 % for all activities. The largest shares of non-fatal accidents at work within medium-sized enterprises (with 50-249 employees) were observed for administrative and support service activities (30.8 %) and manufacturing (30.3 %); the average for all activities was 21.5 %. Large enterprises have 250 or more employees (shown in Figure 3 as 250-499 employees and 500 or more). In mining and quarrying, some 44.8 % of non-fatal accidents at work were in large enterprises, nearly double the 22.9 % average for all activities. Large enterprises also accounted for a high share of these accidents in administrative and support service activities (37.5 %).
Figure 3: Non-fatal accidents at work, by size of enterprise and economic activity, EU-28, 2015
(% of non-fatal accidents for each activity)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_05)

Fatal accidents

Concerning fatal accidents at work a similar pattern was observed for the EU-28 in 2015 as for non-fatal accidents, with only a few notable differences. Once more, by far the highest share recorded for enterprises with no employees was in agriculture, forestry and fishing (28.7 % of all fatal accidents in that activity). Most of the activities that reported high shares for small enterprises for non-fatal accidents at work also reported high shares for fatal accidents, with the exception of public administration and defence, where the share for small enterprises was 8.2 %, lower than in any other activity shown in Figure 4. A large share of fatal accidents at work within accommodation and food service activities was also recorded for small enterprises (43.5 %), as was the case for non-fatal accidents. However, this was not the case for construction where the share of small enterprises in the total number of fatal accidents (28.5 %) was not much above the average for all activities (24.8 %). For medium-sized enterprises, the same two activities that reported high shares of non-fatal accidents also reported high shares for fatal accidents, namely administrative and support service activities (33.2 %) and manufacturing (24.9 %). Equally, for large enterprises mining and quarrying recorded the largest share for fatal accidents at work as it had for non-fatal accidents, as 46.6 % of all fatal accidents in this activity occurred in this size class; this share was 3.4 times as high as the average share for all activities (13.5 %). Human health and social work activities as well as public administration and defence (both 30.0 %) also reported shares of fatal accidents in large enterprises that were at least double the average for this size class among all activities.
Figure 4: Fatal accidents at work, by size of enterprise and economic activity, EU-28, 2015
(% of fatal accidents for each activity)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_05)

Analysis by injured body part

Figures 5 and 6 present an analysis of the type of body part injured in non-fatal and fatal accidents.

Non-fatal accidents

For all activities combined, the most common body parts injured in non-fatal workplace accidents in the EU-28 in 2015 were the upper (shoulders, arms and hands) and lower extremities (hips, legs and feet), with 39.4 % and 28.9 % shares of the total respectively. The only other type of body part with a share that was more than one tenth of the total was the back, accounting for 12.7 % of all injuries.

In 2015, injuries of the upper extremities were particularly common in the EU-28 among injuries resulting from non-fatal accidents within manufacturing (51.8 %) and the accommodation and food service activities (50.4 %), but were less common within public administration and defence (29.9 %) and transportation and storage (27.7 %). For injuries of the lower extremities, there was less variation by activity, with the shares ranging from 34.8 % for public administration and defence to 24.1 % for manufacturing. Back injuries were relatively more common within human health and social work activities (21.2 %) as well as several other tertiary (service) activities and less common within primary and secondary activities: back injuries occurred in 9.2 % of non-fatal accidents within agriculture, forestry and fishing, 8.9 % within mining and quarrying and 8.5 % within manufacturing. Some of the body parts that were, on average, less frequently injured in non-fatal accidents recorded relatively high shares of injuries within one or a few activities. For example, head injuries made up 10.1 % of all injuries in mining and quarrying, 8.6 % in agriculture, forestry and fishing, 7.5 % in construction and 7.3 % in manufacturing, compared with 6.6 % on average, the latter kept down by relatively low shares within most service activities. By contrast, neck injuries were generally more common among service activities. Injuries to the torso and organs were relatively common in agriculture, forestry and fishing (6.5 %) compared with an average for all activities of 3.7 %.
Figure 5: Non-fatal accidents at work, by part of body injured and economic activity, EU-28, 2015
(% of non-fatal accidents for each activity)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_06)

Fatal accidents

Turning to fatal accidents at work, the distribution by the body part that was injured is very different. For all activities combined, more than one third of fatal accidents in the EU-28 in 2015 related to injuries of the whole body or multiple sites (34.2 %), while nearly one quarter (24.6 %) were head injuries and 14.7 % injuries of the torso and organs.

Among the 10 activities shown in Figure 6, the most common injuries in fatal accidents at work in the EU-28 in 2015 concerned the whole body and multiple sites in eight cases, the exceptions being accommodation and food service activities as well as agriculture, forestry and fishing where head injuries were more common. Equally, head injuries were the second most common injuries in fatal accidents at work in eight cases, with the same activities as exceptions, where injuries of the whole body and multiple sites were the second most common. Looking at the less common body parts injured in fatal accidents at work, activities with relatively high shares included: agriculture, forestry and fishing as well as mining and quarrying for neck injuries; mining and quarrying as well as accommodation and food service activities for injuries of the upper extremities; mining and quarrying as well as human health and social work activities for injuries of the lower extremities; accommodation and food service activities as well as administrative and support service activities for other parts of the body (other than those explicitly listed in Figure 6).
Figure 6: Fatal accidents at work, by part of body injured and economic activity, EU-28, 2015
(% of fatal accidents for each activity)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_06)

Analysis by type of injury

Figures 7 and 8 contain analyses of data according to the type of injury sustained when people were involved in accidents.

Non-fatal accidents

For the EU-28, in 2015, there were two types of particularly common injuries for non-fatal accidents, namely, wounds and superficial injuries (29.9 % of the total) and dislocations, sprains and strains (27.9 %). The next most common types were concussion and internal injuries (17.3 %) and bone fractures (11.6 %); none of the other types of injury accounted for a double-digit share of the total number of non-fatal workplace accidents in the EU-28.

The two most common types of injury from non-fatal accidents at work — wounds and superficial injuries as well as dislocations, sprains and strains — were the two most common types of injury for 9 of the 10 activities shown in Figure 7. The one exception was human health and social work activities where concussion and internal injuries (19.5 % of the total) accounted for a similar share as that recorded for wounds and superficial injuries (19.4 %) in the EU-28 in 2015. Dislocations, sprains and strains were particularly common within public administration and defence (43.7 % of the total). Looking at the less common types of injuries resulting from non-fatal workplace accidents, some were quite common in particular activities. Bone fractures were relatively common in mining and quarrying (19.3 %) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (17.9 %) compared with the average for all activities (11.6 %). The loss of body parts (amputations) were also relatively common in mining and quarrying (1.7 %) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (0.8 %) compared with the overall average (0.4 %), as was also the case in manufacturing (1.0 %). Burns, scalds and frostbite were four times as common in accommodation and food service activities (7.1 %) as in all activities combined (average of 1.8 %) as were poisoning and infections (0.7 % compared with 0.4 %).
Figure 7: Non-fatal accidents at work, by type of injury and economic activity, EU-28, 2015
(% of fatal accidents for each activity)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_07)

Fatal accidents

There were also two types of particularly common injuries for fatal accidents in the EU-28 in 2015, but these were different from those observed for non-fatal accidents. Concussion and internal injuries accounted for one quarter (25.0 % of the total) of all fatal accidents while multiple injuries accounted for more than one fifth (21.4 %). The next most common type of injuries was bone fractures (10.7 %).

Concussion and internal injuries were the most common type of injuries for 8 of the 10 activities shown in Figure 8, with multiple injuries the most common for mining and quarrying as well as transportation and storage in the EU-28 in 2015. In all 10 of the activities these two types of injuries were the two most common types. Looking at the less common types of injuries resulting from fatal workplace accidents, some were quite common in particular activities. Wounds and superficial injuries were relatively common in accommodation and food service activities (10.1 %), compared with the average for all activities (5.4 %). Drowning and asphyxiation were more than twice as common in accommodation and food service activities (8.7 %), agriculture, forestry and fishing (9.2 %) and mining and quarrying (15.1 %) compared with the overall average (4.2 %). Agriculture, forestry and fishing also had a notably higher than average share of poisoning and infections, 5.3 % compared with 3.0 %. Three activities reported relatively high shares of burns, scalds and frostbite in all fatal accidents: human health and social work activities (4.3 %), manufacturing (5.2 %) and accommodation and food service activities (10.1 %); the average for all activities was 2.3 %.
Figure 8: Fatal accidents at work, by type of injury and economic activity, EU-28, 2015
(% of fatal accidents for each activity)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_07)

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

In December 2008, the European Parliament and the Council adopted Regulation (EC) No 1338/2008 on Community statistics on public health and health and safety at work. The Regulation is designed to ensure that health statistics provide adequate information for all EU Member States to monitor Community actions in the field of public health and health and safety at work. In April 2011, a European Commission Regulation (EU) No 349/2011 on statistics on accidents at work was adopted specifying in detail the variables, breakdowns and metadata that Member States are required to deliver; this legislation is being implemented in a number of phases. Note also that a Commission Decision No 2011/231/EU from April 2011 granted derogations to certain Member States with respect to the transmission of statistics on accidents at work.

European statistics on accidents at work (ESAW) is the main data source for EU statistics relating to health and safety at work issues. ESAW includes data on occupational accidents that result in at least four calendar days of absence from work, including fatal accidents. The phrase ‘during the course of work’ means while engaged in an occupational activity or during the time spent at work. This generally includes cases of road traffic accidents in the course of work but excludes accidents during the journey between home and the workplace.

An accident at work is defined in ESAW methodology as a discrete occurrence during the course of work which leads to physical or mental harm. Fatal accidents at work are those that lead to the death of the victim within one year of the accident taking place. Non-fatal accidents at work are defined as those that imply at least four full calendar days of absence from work (they are sometimes also called ‘serious accidents at work’). Non-fatal accidents at work often involve considerable harm for the workers concerned and their families and they have the potential to force people, for example, to live with a permanent disability, to leave the labour market, or to change job. Indeed, they may result in a considerable number of working days being lost within the European economy.

The statistics presented for accidents at work refer to declarations made to either public (social security administrations) or private insurance schemes, or to other relevant national authorities (for example, those controlling labour or workplace inspections). Indicators on accidents at work may be presented as absolute values, as percentage distributions, as incidence rates in relation to every 100 000 persons employed (the denominator being provided by the authorities in the EU Member States that are responsible for ESAW data collection or by the EU’s labour force survey (LFS)) or as standardised incidence rates.

For more information on ESAW data please refer to the main article on accidents at work.

Context

A safe, healthy working environment is a crucial factor in an individual’s quality of life and is also a collective concern. EU Member State governments recognise the social and economic benefits of better health and safety at work. Reliable, comparable, up-to-date statistical information is vital for setting policy objectives and adopting suitable policy measures and preventing actions.

For more information on health and safety at work policy, please refer to the main article on accidents at work.

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Accidents at work (ESAW, 2008 onwards) (hsw_acc_work)
Details by NACE Rev. 2 activity (2008 onwards) (hsw_n2)
Non-fatal accidents at work by NACE Rev. 2 activity and sex (hsw_n2_01)
Fatal Accidents at work by NACE Rev. 2 activity (hsw_n2_02)
Non-fatal accidents at work by NACE Rev. 2 activity and age (hsw_n2_03)
Accidents at work by days lost and NACE Rev. 2 activity (hsw_n2_04)
Accidents at work by NACE Rev. 2 activity and size of enterprise (hsw_n2_05)
Accidents at work by NACE Rev. 2 activity and part of body injured (hsw_n2_06)
Accidents at work by NACE Rev. 2 activity and type of injury (hsw_n2_07)