Statistics Explained

Accidents at work - statistics by economic activity


Data extracted in January 2022.

Planned update: November 2022.

Highlights


In 2019, the highest incidence of non-fatal accidents at work in the EU was observed in construction, with 3 211 such accidents per 100 000 persons employed.

In 2019, the highest incidence of fatal accidents at work in the EU was observed in mining and quarrying, with 8.2 such accidents per 100 000 persons employed.

[[File:Accidents at work - economic activity 01-03-2022 V2.xlsx]]

Incidence rate of non-fatal accidents at work, EU, 2012-2019

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 (NACE Section A); mining and quarrying (NACE Section B); manufacturing (NACE Section C); construction (NACE Section F); wholesale and retail trade (NACE Section G); transportation and storage (NACE Section H); accommodation and food service activities (NACE Section I); administrative and support service activities (NACE Section N); public administration and defence (NACE Section O); and human health and social work activities (NACE Section Q).

Full article

Developments over time

Non-fatal accidents

In 2019, there were 3.1 million non-fatal accidents that resulted in at least four calendar days of absence from work in the EU (see Table 1). The total number of non-fatal accidents at work in the EU rose between 2012 and 2019, up some 203 000 (equivalent to an overall increase of 6.9 %). This increase may to some extent reflect methodological changes in some of the EU Member States. For more information, please refer to the ’Data sources’ section of the main article on accidents at work.

In absolute terms, non-fatal accidents in the EU were most common in

  • Manufacturing, 586 000 non-fatal accidents in 2019, (18.7 %) of the total,
  • Wholesale and retail trade, 388 000 non-fatal accidents (12.3 %),
  • Construction, 372 000 non-fatal accidents (11.8 %),
  • Human health and social work activities, 345 000 non-fatal accidents (11.0 %).

Given that the workforces of the activities are different in size, the incidence rate (the number of non-fatal accidents at work for every 100 000 persons employed) gives a clearer impression of where workers are more likely to encounter non-fatal accidents.

There was a decrease in the incidence rate between 2012 and 2019 (down 4.2 %) for all economic activities, reflecting growth in the number of persons employed. In 2019, the highest incidence of non-fatal accidents at work in the EU was observed in construction, with 3 211 such accidents per 100 000 persons employed. Transportation and storage (2 673 per 100 000) and administrative and support service activities (2 477 per 100 000) were the only other NACE sections with incidence rates above 2 000 per 100 000 persons employed.

The lowest incidence rate was for public administration and defence (1 347 per 100 000 persons employed), as shown in Table 1. Incidence rates for non-fatal accidents at work were generally lower in 2019 than in 2012; this situation was observed for 8 out of the 10 NACE sections for which data are shown in Table 1. Between 2012 and 2019 there were considerable increases in incidence rates for non-fatal accidents in the EU for public administration and defence (32.7 %) and human health and social work activities (up 12.3 %). Note that the changes observed for the EU 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, 2012-2019
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_01)

Fatal accidents

In 2019, there were 3 408 fatal accidents at work in the EU (see Table 2), resulting in a ratio of approximately 922 non-fatal accidents for every fatal accident. There was a decrease in the total number of fatal accidents at work in the EU between 2012 and 2019, some 349 fewer (equivalent to an overall reduction of 9.3 %). In absolute terms, fatal accidents were most common in:

  • Construction, 755 people in the EU had a fatal accident in 2019, (22.2 %) of the total,
  • Transportation and storage, 511 fatal accidents (15.0 %),
  • Manufacturing, 505 fatal accidents (14.8 %),
  • Agriculture, forestry and fishing, 425 fatal accidents (12.5 %).

The decrease in the incidence rate (the number of fatal accidents at work for every 100 000 persons employed) between 2012 and 2019 (down by 18.7 %) was somewhat greater than the decrease for the number of fatal accidents, reflecting growth in the number of persons employed. As such, during the period 2012-2019, there was a larger reduction in the number of and incidence of fatal accidents at work in the EU, when compared with developments for non-fatal accidents.

In 2019, the highest incidence rate of fatal accidents at work was observed in mining and quarrying with 8.2 fatal accidents per 100 000 persons employed. Construction (6.5 per 100 000 persons employed), transportation and storage (4.8 per 100 000), agriculture forestry and fishing (4.4 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 (0.3 per 100 000). While incidence rates for fatal accidents at work — as for non-fatal accidents — were generally lower in 2019 than in 2012 for most activities, an increase was observed for accommodation and food service activities (60.8 %).

Table 2: Fatal accidents at work, by economic activity, EU, 2012-2019
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_01)

Analysis of non-fatal accidents by sex and age

Accidents at work were more likely to involve men than women. In 2019, just over two out of every three (68.3 %, excluding cases where the sex of the victim experiencing the accident was not reported) non-fatal accidents at work in the EU involved men. To some extent, this reflects the fact that more men than women are working in the affected sectors. 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.

Focusing on the 10 activities presented in Table 3, the four highest incidence rates for non-fatal accidents at work among women in the EU in 2019 were for transportation and storage, human health and social work activities, accommodation and food service activities, administrative and support service activities. For men, construction; administrative and support service activities; transportation and storage and manufacturing had the four highest rates. (see Image 1)

Image 1: Highest incidence rates of non-fatal accidents by economic sector and sex, EU, 2019
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_01)

The difference in incidence rates for men and women in mining and quarrying was particularly large, with the rate 8.3 times as high for men as for women, reflecting differences for men around 517 000 versus women around 78 000 in employment for this activity. Similarly, the incidence rate for men was 7.9 times higher than for women in construction reflecting also a sectoral difference, in terms of employment men accounted for around 12 million workers versus women with around 1.2 million workers. The only activity with a higher incidence rate for non-fatal accidents at work for women than for men was human health and social work activities.

Table 3: Non-fatal accidents at work by economic activity and sex, EU, 2019
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_01)

Figure 1 identifies those activities where workers of a particular age range make up a greater or lesser share of those having suffered a non-fatal accident at work. It should be kept in mind that the age profile of the workforce may vary between activities. Younger workers (those aged less than 25 years) accounted for 12.2 % of all non-fatal accidents at work in the EU in 2019. Shares of young workers higher than the share for all economic activities, were recorded in the following sectors:

  • Manufacturing (12.2 %),
  • Construction (13.1 %),
  • Administrative and support service activities (14.7 %),
  • Wholesale and retail trade (15.8 %),
  • Accommodation and food service activities (24.0 %).

Older workers (those aged 55 years and over) accounted for 18.1 % of all non-fatal accidents at work in the EU in 2019. Higher shares of non-fatal accidents among older workers were reported for:

  • Human health and social work activities (22.4 %),
  • Agriculture, forestry and fishing (26.4 %),
  • Public administration and defence (26.4 %).
Figure 1: Non-fatal accidents at work by age and economic activity, EU, 2019 (% 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, almost three quarters (72.4 %) of accidents at work in 2019 involved the victim being unfit for work for less than three months, while some 24.0 % were for longer periods (or resulted in permanent incapacity) and 0.1 % were fatal; for the remaining 3.5 % 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 in 2019 in most service activities shown in Figure 2, most notably for accommodation and food service activities (77.3 %) and manufacturing (75.6 %).

By contrast, the share of workplace accidents in the EU in 2019 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 (40.1 %),
  • Transportation and storage (26.7 %),
  • Public administration and defence (25.4 %),
  • Agriculture, forestry and fishing (25.4 %),
  • Construction (24.7 %).

Fatal accidents accounted only for 0.1 % of all workplace accidents in the EU in 2019. Agriculture, forestry and fishing (0.3 %) and mining and quarrying (0.5 %) were the only activities with higher shares.

Figure 2: Accidents at work by severity and economic activity, EU, 2019 (% of accidents for each activity)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_04)

Analysis by injured body part

The description of an accident at work includes information on the injured body part. The following options are available for recording an accident at work:

  • Head
  • Neck
  • Back
  • Torso and organs
  • Upper extremities
  • Lower extremities
  • Whole body and multiple sites
  • Other parts of body injured
  • Not specified


Figures 3 and 4 present an analysis of the type of body part injured in non-fatal and fatal accidents.

Non-fatal accidents at work

For all activities combined, the most common body parts injured in non-fatal workplace accidents in the EU in 2019 were the upper (shoulders, arms and hands), with 39.3 % of the total number of non-fatal accidents at work, and lower extremities (hips, legs and feet), with 28.8 %. The only other type of body part with a share that was more than one tenth of the total was the back, accounting for 11.0 % of all injuries.


Image 2: Non-fatal accidents at work by injured body part and economic sector, EU, 2019
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_01)

Looking into the injured body part, by specific economic activities analysed in this article (see Image 2), in 2019, non-fatal accidents at work that resulted in injuries of the upper extremities were particularly common in the EU within manufacturing (52.7 % of all accidents) and the accommodation and food service activities (50.9 %), but were less common in transportation and storage (27.5 %) and in public administration and defence (27.4 %). For injuries of the lower extremities, there was less variation by activity, with the highest shares for transportation and storage (35.3 %), mining and quarrying (33.1 %) and the lowest shares for accommodation and food service activities (24.8 %) and manufacturing (24.1 %). Back injuries were relatively common within human health and social work activities (18.3 %) and public administration and defence with 12.6 % of non-fatal accidents was the second economic sector affected by this type of injury while agriculture, forestry and fishing with 8.6 % and manufacturing with 7.8 % of non-fatal accidents were the activities with the smallest shares.

Figure 3: Non-fatal accidents at work, by part of body injured and economic activity, EU, 2019
(% of non-fatal accidents for each activity)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_06)


Fatal accidents at work

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 in 2019 related to injuries of the whole body or multiple sites (30.8 %), while nearly one quarter (22.4 %) were head injuries and 12.7 % were injuries to the torso and organs. (see Figure 4).

The most common injuries in fatal accidents at work in the EU in 2019 concerned the whole body and multiple sites; this pattern was observed in 9 out of the 10 activities shown (when excluding the residual category of ’not specified’). Only for accommodation and food service activities was the highest share of fatal accidents linked to head injuries.

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;
  • Accommodation and food service activities for upper extremities injuries;
  • Manufacturing for back injuries
  • Public administration and defence for injuries of the lower extremities.
Figure 4: Fatal accidents at work by part of body injured and economic activity, EU, 2019
(% of fatal accidents for each activity)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_06)

Analysis by type of injury

Figures 5 and 6 contain analyses of data according to the type of injury sustained when people were involved in accidents.

Non-fatal accidents at work

In 2019, the most common injuries in the EU resulting from non-fatal accidents were wounds and superficial injuries (28.9 % of the total), dislocations, sprains and strains (26.3 %), concussion and internal injuries (18.8 %) and bone fractures (10.6 %).

  • Wounds and superficial injuries — had the highest share of non-fatal accidents across 7 of the 10 activities shown in Figure 5.
  • Dislocations, sprains and strains accounted for a higher share for the three other activities: transportation and storage; public administration and defence; and human health and social work 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 (20.3 %) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (16.9  %) compared with the average for all activities (10.6 %).
  • The loss of body parts (amputations) was also relatively common in mining and quarrying (1.4 %), as well as manufacturing (0.8 %) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (0.8 %) compared with the overall average (0.4 %).
  • Burns, scalds and frostbite were 3.9 times as common in accommodation and food service activities (6.6 %) than the average for all activities (1.7 %).
  • Poisoning and infections were relatively common in agriculture, forestry and fishing (0.8 %); manufacturing and public administration and defence (both 0.5 %) compared with the average for all activities (0.4 %).
Figure 5: Non-fatal accidents at work by type of injury and economic activity, EU, 2019
(% of non-fatal accidents for each activity)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_n2_07)

Fatal accidents at work

For fatal accidents in the EU in 2019, the most observed injury types were concussion and internal injuries (20.9 %) and multiple injuries (20.7 %) followed by bone fractures (11.3 %).

  • Concussion and internal injuries were the most common type of injuries in 2019 for 5 of the 10 activities shown in Figure 6, namely manufacturing; mining and quarrying; agriculture, forestry and fishing; wholesale and retail trade; administrative and support service activities while.
  • Multiple injuries were the most common for construction; transportation and storage; public administration and defence; and human health and social work activities.
  • Bone fractures were relatively common for accommodation and food service activities (20.5 %) and for construction (12.1 % of its fatal accidents) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (17.4 %).

Less common types of injuries resulting from fatal workplace accidents were:

  • Wounds and superficial injuries, although relatively common within accommodation and food service activities (14.1 %), and agriculture, forestry and fishing (8.7 % of its fatal accidents), compared with the average for all activities (4.8 %).
  • Accidents involving drowning and asphyxiation were more than twice as common than the overall average (3.1 % both) for mining and quarrying and agriculture, forestry and fishing (both 7.5 %).
  • Accidents involving poisoning and infections were more than twice as common for wholesale and retail trade (1.5 % of its fatal accidents) than the overall average (0.6 %).
  • Burns, scalds and frostbite were more than twice as common in manufacturing (4.0 % of its fatal accidents) than they were across all activities (1.8 %).


Figure 6: Fatal accidents at work by type of injury and economic activity, EU, 2019
(% 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 EU’s 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 interest. 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)