Accidents at work - statistics by economic activity


Data extracted in November 2019.

Planned update: November 2020.

Highlights


In 2017, the highest incidence of non-fatal accidents at work in the EU-28 was observed in construction, with 2 876 such accidents per 100 000 persons employed.

In 2017, the highest incidence of fatal accidents at work in the EU-28 was observed in mining and quarrying, with 6.8 such accidents per 100 000 persons employed.

Incidence rate of non-fatal accidents at work, EU-28, 2011-2017

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. This article analyses these statistics according to the type of activity in which accidents occur, focusing on selected activities, which are agriculture, forestry and fishing, mining and quarrying, manufacturing, construction, wholesale and retail trade, transportation and storage, accommodation and food service activities, administrative and support service activities, public administration and defence, and human health and social work activities.


Full article

Developments over time

Non-fatal accidents

In 2017, there were just over 3.3 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 2011 and 2017, some 70 thousand fewer (equivalent to an overall reduction of 2.1 %). A closer examination reveals that a decrease was in fact recorded between 2011 and 2012, after which the number of non-fatal accidents at work increased slightly most years, with changes between -0.3 % and 3.0 % each year during the period 2013-2017. The decrease in the incidence rate (number of non-fatal accidents at work for every 100 000 persons employed) between 2011 and 2017 (down 6.4 %) was considerably greater than the decrease for the number of non-fatal accidents, reflecting growth in the 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 2017, 18.7 % of the total. Wholesale and retail trade (12.3 %), human health and social work activities (11.3 %) and construction (11.3 %) also each 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 2017, the highest incidence of non-fatal accidents at work in the EU-28 was observed in construction, with 2 876 such accidents per 100 000 persons employed. Transportation and storage (2 633 per 100 000), administrative and support service activities (2 365 per 100 000) and agriculture (2 099 per 100 000) were the only 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 Public administration and defence (1 325 per 100 000 persons employed).

While incidence rates for non-fatal accidents at work were generally lower in 2017 than in 2011 for most activities, larger increases were observed for agriculture, forestry and fishing (54.3 %) and for public administration and defence (28.1 %). Note that the changes noted for the EU-28 in some activities may be linked to changes in coverage of specific activities for some EU Member States, for example because of the end of derogations or voluntary data collection.

Table 1: Non-fatal accidents at work, by economic activity, EU-28, 2011-2017
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_01)

Fatal accidents

In 2017, there were 3 552 fatal accidents in the EU-28 (see Table 2), resulting in a ratio of approximately 942 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 2011 and 2017, some 589 fewer (equivalent to an overall reduction of 14.2 %). During this period the number of fatal accidents initially decreased from 4 141 to 3 679 between 2011 and 2013 (down by 11.2 %) before decreasing by 2.5 % between 2013 and 2016 and then falling by 6.6 % in the latest year for which data are available. The decrease in the incidence rate (number of fatal accidents at work for every 100 000 persons employed) between 2011 and 2016 (down by 18.3 %) was somewhat greater than the decrease for the number of fatal accidents. As such, the number and incidence of fatal accidents at work fell faster between 2011 and 2016 than did the equivalent indicators for non-fatal accidents.

In absolute terms, fatal accidents were most common in construction, where 733 people in the EU-28 had fatal accidents in 2017, 20.6 % of the total. Transportation and storage (17.8 %), manufacturing (14.0 %) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (12.8 %) also accounted for more than one tenth of all fatal accidents at work. In 2017, the highest incidence of fatal accidents at work was observed in mining and quarrying, with 48 fatal accidents resulting in a rate of 6.8 per 100 000 persons employed. Agriculture, forestry and fishing (6.1 per 100 000 persons employed), construction (5.6 per 100 000) and transportation and storage (5.5 per 100 000) 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. While incidence rates for fatal accidents at work — as for non-fatal accidents — were lower in 2017 than in 2011 for most activities, relatively small increases were observed for public administration and defence (1.5 %), and larger increases for accommodation and food service activities (40.4 %), agriculture, forestry and fishing (34.5 %) and human health and social work activities (12.0 %). Note again that these increases may be linked to the end of some existing derogations. The largest fall in the incidence of fatal accidents was observed for mining and quarrying, as the rate was 55.1 % lower in 2017 than in 2011.

Table 2: Fatal accidents at work, by economic activity, EU-28, 2011-2017
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 2017, just over two out of every three (66.8 %, excluding cases where the sex of the victim experiencing the accident was not reported) non-fatal accidents at work in the EU-28 involved men, a ratio of 2.2 non-fatal accidents involving men for everyone 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 2017 were for transportation and storage, administrative and support service activities, and accommodation and food service activities. For men, construction, administrative and support service activities, and transportation and storage had the three 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 6.5 times as high as for women in mining and quarrying, although for both sexes this activity had relatively low incidence rates 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, sex and age, EU-28, 2017
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 high levels of qualifications there may be a smaller proportion of relatively young people resulting in a lower share of accidents among younger workers.

Younger workers (those aged less than 25 years) accounted for 11.8 % of all non-fatal accidents at work in the EU-28 in 2017, but this share was slightly higher in construction (13.0 %), administrative and support service activities (13.9 %), wholesale and retail trade (15.1 %) and much higher in accommodation and food service activities (22.5 %); some of these are activities have large shares of younger workers in general.

Older workers (those aged 55 years and over) accounted for 17.1 % of all non-fatal accidents at work in the EU-28 in 2017. Higher shares of non-fatal accidents among older workers were reported for transportation and storage (17.2 %), human health and social work activities (21.1 %), public administration and defence (22.0 %) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (25.1 %); 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, 2017 (% 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 (grouped into several classes) 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 (84.4 %) of accidents at work in 2017 involved the victim being unfit for work for less than three months, while some 9.3 % were for longer periods (or resulted in permanent incapacity) and 0.1 % were fatal; for the remaining 6.2 % 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 2017 in most service activities shown in Figure 2, most notably for accommodation and food service activities (89.2 %), wholesale and retail trade (88.5 %) and human health and social work activities (86.4 %).

By contrast, the share of workplace accidents in the EU-28 in 2017 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 (17.9 %), more than double the total value for all activities (9.3 %); construction (11.4 %) and public administration and defence(10.6 %) were 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 0.5 % or less of workplace accidents in most activities in the EU-28 in 2017, with a value of 0.1 % across most activities. Agriculture, forestry and fishing (0.3 %) and mining and quarrying (0.5 %) reported higher shares.

It should be noted that the share of accidents at work with unknown severity also varied greatly between activities in 2017, from just 2.7 % for construction to 17.3 % for agriculture, forestry and fishing across the EU-28.

Figure 2: Accidents at work, by severity and economic activity, EU-28, 2017 (% of accidents for each activity)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_04)

Analysis by enterprise size class

Earlier in this article the underlying age structure of the workforce was cited as a factor in the distribution of accidents by age group, and a similar situation occurs for the analysis by enterprise size class presented in Figures 3 and 4: each economic activity is made up of micro, small, medium-sized or large enterprises to a greater or lesser extent. For example: agriculture, forestry and fishing, construction, and accommodation and food service activities all have very many smaller enterprises; wholesale and retail trade as well as transport and storage also have many smaller enterprises, although they also have a (relatively) few very large enterprises. Another issue to be considered is that the reporting of accidents, particularly non-fatal ones, 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, 12.5 % of all non-fatal accidents at work in the EU-28 in 2017 were in this size class. This can be contrasted with an average of 1.2 % across all activities — see Figure 3. The particularly high share in this smallest enterprise size class within agriculture, forestry and fishing influenced the average for all activities such that it was the only activity to record an above average share, as the next highest share for enterprises with no employees was 1.0 % 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 2017 in the EU-28, namely wholesale and retail trade (19.4 %), accommodation and food service activities (27.8 %), agriculture, forestry and fishing (29.0 %) and construction (33.2 %); these shares are above the average of 15.1 % across all activities. Small enterprises (with 10-49 employees) had a particularly high share of non-fatal accidents at work in construction (35.5 %) and accommodation and food service activities (33.0 %), compared with an average of 22.1 % 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 (30.6 %) and manufacturing (30.9 %); the average for all activities was 22.4 %. Large enterprises have 250 or more employees (shown in Figure 3 as 250-499 employees and 500 or more). In public administration and defence, some 48.4 % of non-fatal accidents at work were in large enterprises, while in administrative and support service activities the share was 36.6 % far more than the 25.2 % average for all activities. Large enterprises also accounted for a high share of non-fatal accidents at work in human health and social work activities (35.9 %) and mining and quarrying (35.8 %).

Figure 3: Non-fatal accidents at work, by size of enterprise and economic activity, EU-28, 2017
(% 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 2017 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 (17.7 % 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, although for wholesale and retail trade the share of fatal accidents among small enterprises (31.6 %) was the highest recorded among any of the activities shown in Figure 4, whereas for non-fatal accidents it was lower, but higher than the average for all activities. By contrast, a high share of non-fatal accidents at work within construction was recorded for small enterprises (35.5 % compared with an average of 22.1 %), whereas for fatal accidents the share (29.9 %) was much closer to the average for all activities (25.0 %). For medium-sized enterprises, the same four activities that reported high shares of non-fatal accidents also reported high shares for fatal accidents, namely administrative and support service activities (35.0 %), manufacturing (25.4 %), human health and social work activities (26.5 %) and public administration and defence (20.0 %). For large enterprises, mining and quarrying recorded the highest share for fatal accidents (just ahead of its second highest share for non-fatal accidents), as 37.5 % of all fatal accidents in this activity occurred in this size class; this share was twice as high as the average share for all activities (12.6 %).

Figure 4: Fatal accidents at work, by size of enterprise and economic activity, EU-28, 2017
(% 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 2017 were the upper (shoulders, arms and hands) and lower extremities (hips, legs and feet), with 39.2 % and 28.5 % shares of the total number of non-fatal accidents at work 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 12.0 % of all injuries.

In 2017, non-fatal accidents at work that resulted in injuries of the upper extremities were particularly common in the EU-28 within manufacturing (52.4 % of all accidents) and the accommodation and food service activities (50.8 %), but were less common within public administration and defence (30.1 %) and transportation and storage (28.1 %). For injuries of the lower extremities, there was less variation by activity, with shares ranging from 23.3 % for manufacturing to 34.9 % for transportation and storage. Back injuries were relatively more common within human health and social work activities (20.2 %) as well as several other tertiary (service) activities and less common within primary and secondary activities: back injuries occurred in 8.6 % of non-fatal accidents within agriculture, forestry and fishing and 8.6 % 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 8.8 % of all injuries from non-fatal accidents at work in mining and quarrying and 10.2 % in agriculture, forestry and fishing, compared with 6.5 % on average. Neck injuries were generally more common among service activities, peaking at 4.0 % for human health and social work activities. Injuries to the torso and organs were relatively common in agriculture, forestry and fishing (6.4 %) 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, 2017
(% 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, around one third of fatal accidents in the EU-28 in 2017 related to injuries of the whole body or multiple sites (33.9 %), while nearly one quarter (22.5 %) were head injuries and 14.8 % were injuries to the torso and organs.

Among the ten activities shown in Figure 6, the most common injuries in fatal accidents at work in the EU-28 in 2017 concerned the whole body and multiple sites in nine cases of those shown. Head injuries were the second most common injuries in fatal accidents at work in all cases where injuries of the whole body and multiple sites were the most common. Generally injuries to the torso and organs completed the list of the three most common types of fatal injuries in each of these ten activities, the only exception being public administration and defence, in which fatal injuries to the other parts of body were as common as injuries to the torso and organs. Looking at the less common body parts injured in fatal accidents at work, activities with relatively high shares included: agriculture, forestry and fishing for neck injuries and for back injuries; human health and social work activities as well as public administration and defence for injuries of the upper extremities; administrative and support service activities for injuries of the lower extremities.

Figure 6: Fatal accidents at work, by part of body injured and economic activity, EU-28, 2017
(% 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

In 2017, there were two types of particularly common injuries in the EU-28 resulting from non-fatal accidents, namely, wounds and superficial injuries (29.1 % of the total) and dislocations, sprains and strains (27.4 %). The next most common types of injuries were concussion and internal injuries (17.7 %) and bone fractures (11.3 %); 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 first most common type of injury from non-fatal accidents at work (wounds and superficial injuries) was the most common type of injury for 7 of the 10 activities shown in Figure 7. The second most common type of injury was dislocations, sprains and strains, Transportation and storage (30.8 %), human health activities (35.1 %) and public administration and defence (41.5  %) were the three highest shares for this type of injury. In 2017, wounds and superficial injuries together with dislocations, sprains and strains were making most common types of injuries for all 10 selected activities. 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 (21.1 %) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (16.4 %) compared with the average for all activities (11.3 %). The loss of body parts (amputations) were also relatively common in mining and quarrying (1.3 %) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (0.8 %) compared with the overall average (0.4 %), as was also the case in manufacturing (0.9 %). Burns, scalds and frostbite were 3.3 times as common in accommodation and food service activities (6.2 %) as the average for all activities (1.7 %), while poisoning and infections were relatively common in agriculture, forestry and fishing (0.7 %) compared with the average for all activities (0.4 %).

Figure 7: Non-fatal accidents at work, by type of injury and economic activity, EU-28, 2017
(% 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 2017, but these were different from those observed for non-fatal accidents. Concussion and internal injuries accounted for one quarter (25.5 %) of all fatal accidents, while multiple injuries accounted for more than one fifth (23.4 %) of the total. The next most common type of injuries was bone fractures (11.2 %).

In the EU-28, concussion and internal injuries were the most common type of injuries in 2017 for 6 of the 10 activities shown in Figure 8, with multiple injuries the most common for mining and quarrying as well as transportation and storage, and bone fractures the most common for agriculture, forestry and fishing. In fact, concussion and internal injuries as well as multiple injuries were the two most common types of injuries across all of the activities for which information is shown.

As well as in accommodation and food service activities (14.1 %), bone fractures were a relatively common consequence of fatal accidents in the EU-28 in agriculture, forestry and fishing (14.6 %), construction (12.8 %) and wholesale and retail trade (10.8 %). 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 (10.3 %), compared with the average for all activities (4.3 %). Accidents involving drowning and asphyxiation were more than twice as common in agriculture, forestry and fishing (8.2 %) as the overall average (3.2 %). Mining and quarrying also had a notably higher than average share of poisoning and infections, 2.1 % of its fatal accidents compared with an average of 0.5 % for all activities. Manufacturing reported a relatively high share of burns, scalds and frostbite in all fatal accidents (5.4 %), more than two times as high as the average for all activities (2.2 %).

Figure 8:Fatal accidents at work, by type of injury and economic activity, EU-28, 2017
(% 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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Health and safety at work (hsw)
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)