Accidents at work - statistics on causes and circumstances


Data extracted in July 2018.

Planned update: August 2019.

Highlights

During 2015, almost one third (31.6 %) of all non-fatal accidents at work in the EU took place on industrial sites.

During 2015, almost one third (32.2 %) of EU fatal accidents at work resulted from losing control of a machine, tool or transport/handling equipment.

In 2015, the most common types of non-fatal accidents at work in the EU resulted from physical or mental stress (24.4 %) or impact with a stationary object (23.4 %).

Fatal accidents at work from impact with a stationary object (victim in motion) within the construction sector, 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 worker’s location at the time of the accident, the type of working process and physical activity undertaken at the time of the accident, and the cause of the accident. The data are presented for the total economy (all NACE activities) and for the five NACE sections with the highest numbers of accidents at work across the EU during 2015, namely: agriculture, forestry and fishing (NACE Section A); manufacturing (Section C); construction (Section F); wholesale and retail trade (Section G); transportation and storage (Section H).

Full article

Workstation accidents

Non-fatal accidents

In 2015, almost three quarters (72.5 %) of the 1.6 million non-fatal accidents that took place at work in 19 of the EU Member States (excluding Germany, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom) occurred when a person was at their usual workstation or within the usual local unit of work (see Table 1); these statistics relate to fixed workstations in a workshop, shop, office and more generally, premises of the local unit of the employer. Most of the remaining non-fatal accidents — almost one fifth of the total (17.4 %) — took place at an occasional or mobile workstation or during a journey made on behalf of an employer (these statistics exclude trips made to/from work), while 3.5 % of all non-fatal accidents took place in other locations. Examples of employees with mobile workstations include lorry drivers, construction workers or refuse collectors. Examples of employees with occasional workstations include people making occasional journeys on behalf of their employer, people making specific interventions for their employer outside their usual local unit (for example, on the premises of a client for a meeting, or to install or repair something).

The likelihood of a non-fatal accident taking place at a person’s usual workstation was higher for those people working in manufacturing (86.9 % of all non-fatal accidents) and wholesale or retail trade (81.8 %). Unsurprisingly, the propensity for people working in construction (41.5 % of all non-fatal accidents at work) or in transportation and storage (32.9 %) to experience an accident at an occasional or mobile workstation or during a journey on behalf of their employer was considerably higher than for other activities. Finally, more than one quarter (28.2 %) of all non-fatal accidents among people working in agriculture, forestry and fishing took place in other workstations; this share did not rise above 2.6 % for any of the other NACE sections covered in Table 1.
Table 1: Non-fatal and fatal accidents at work, by workstation and economic activity, EU, 2015
Source: Eurostat (hsw_ph3_01)
Figure 1 presents a similar analysis to that shown in Table 1 but with information presented by sex. Aggregating the data for the 19 EU Member States for which these statistics are available, women were more likely than men to experience a non-fatal accident at their usual workstation or within the usual local unit of work; this pattern was repeated for all five economic activities shown. These results may be linked to structural differences in the occupations that are carried out by men and women: for example, within the construction sector, a higher proportion of men (41.7 %) than women (28.8 %) experienced a non-fatal accident in occasional or mobile workstations or during a journey made on behalf of an employer, suggesting that men were more likely to work on external construction sites or to drive vehicles, whereas women were more likely to work in administrative or supporting roles within the local unit of work.
Figure 1: Non-fatal accidents at work, by workstation, sex and economic activity, EU, 2015
(% share)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_ph3_01)

Fatal accidents

In 2015, there were 2 294 fatal accidents in the 19 EU Member States for which data are available (the same coverage as for non-fatal accidents) with an analysis by workstation. The vast majority of fatal accidents at work either took place in the usual workstation or local work unit (43.3 % of the total) or in occasional or mobile workstations or during a journey made on behalf of an employer (42.8 %). While around one third of fatal accidents within manufacturing (31.5 %) and within agriculture, forestry and fishing (33.2 %) took place in occasional or mobile workstations or during a journey made on behalf of an employer, this share was above a half within transportation and storage (54.5 %) and within construction (56.4 %).

Working environment

Non-fatal accidents

The analysis presented in Table 2 provides aggregated information for a group of 23 EU Member States (excluding Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Finland and Sweden). In 2015, there were 3.0 million non-fatal accidents that took place in these Member States, with the highest share of non-fatal accidents at work occurring at industrial sites (31.6 %), followed by tertiary sites (19.2 %), while public areas (10.7 %) and construction sites (10.3 %) also accounted for double-digit shares.
Table 2: Non-fatal and fatal accidents at work, by working environment and economic activity, EU, 2015
Source: Eurostat (hsw_ph3_02)
Figure 2 provides a similar analysis for the same 23 EU Member States, with additional information by age. It shows that a higher proportion of young persons (defined here as those aged less than 25 years) had non-fatal accidents at work on industrial sites, construction sites or tertiary sites, whereas among older persons (defined here as those aged 55 years or more) non-fatal accidents at work were more likely to occur in public areas or in farming, fish farming, forest zones. These figures are influenced, at least to some degree, by the relative importance of each age group within the total workforce for each activity: for example, a relatively small number of older persons work in the construction sector, while a much larger share of the EU’s farm labour force is composed of elderly persons.
Figure 2: Non-fatal accidents at work, by working environment, age and economic activity, EU, 2015
(% share)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_ph3_02)

Fatal accidents

In 2015, there were 3 687 fatal accidents in the 23 EU Member States for which data are available with an analysis by working environment. The highest number of fatal accidents at work took place in public areas (1 099; 29.8 % of the total), followed by industrial sites (679; 18.4 %) and construction sites (619; 16.8 %). Looking in more detail by NACE section (and subject to data availability), the high proportion of fatal accidents (compared with non-fatal accidents) in public areas can be seen in all activities, with a particularly high share in the transportation and storage sector, as 62.3 % of fatal accidents in these activities took place in public areas. By contrast, compared with non-fatal accidents at work, the share of fatal accidents that were in tertiary sites was particularly low, just 4.6 %. The share of fatal accidents in tertiary sites peaked at 10.1 % for wholesale and retail trade.

Working process accidents

The information presented in Table 3 is related to the main type of work or task that was being performed by the victim at the time of an accident. In 2015, there were 2.0 million non-fatal accidents at work across 17 of the EU Member States for which data are available (excluding the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden) for this particular analysis. The most common tasks that were being carried out when a non-fatal accident took place included production, manufacturing, processing or storing (338 thousand accidents) and the provision of services to enterprise and/or the general public, including intellectual activities (337 thousand accidents).

As may be expected, in agriculture, forestry and fishing there were relatively high numbers of non-fatal accidents linked to agricultural work, horticulture or fish farming (63.2 thousand non-fatal accidents), while within construction there were relatively high numbers of non-fatal accidents linked to excavation, construction, repair or demolition work (62.1 thousand non-fatal accidents). These two economic activities and working processes also recorded the highest numbers of fatal accidents at work, with 258 deaths linked to excavation, construction, repair or demolition work in the construction sector, and 230 deaths linked to agricultural work, horticulture or fish farming within agriculture, forestry and fishing.
Table 3: Non-fatal and fatal accidents at work, by working process and economic activity, EU, 2015
Source: Eurostat (hsw_ph3_03)

Specific physical activity

Data relating to accidents at work by specific physical activity concern what the victim was doing at the exact time of an accident in contrast to the information by working process (as shown above) which describes the main task being performed over a more substantial period. In 2015, in excess of one quarter (28.8 %) of the non-fatal accidents that took place in the 18 EU Member States (excluding Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Sweden and the United Kingdom) for which this analysis was available could be associated with the physical activity of movement (see Figure 3), while just less than one fifth (19.7 %) were linked to the handling of objects and a further 15.3 % to carrying something by hand.

The situation was quite different concerning fatal accidents at work for the same 18 EU Member States, insofar as more than one quarter (26.7 %) of all fatal accidents in 2015 took place while individuals were driving or on board transport or handling equipment, with the next highest share associated with movement (17.4 %).
Figure 3: Accidents at work, by specific physical activity and economic activity, EU, 2015
(% share)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_ph3_04)

Having identified that the highest share of fatal accidents at work in 2015 was linked to the specific physical activity of driving or being on board transport or handling equipment, Figure 4 shows more detailed information for this specific physical activity solely for the transportation and storage sector. Across the same 18 EU Member States, some 17.3 % of all non-fatal accidents in the transportation and storage sector could be attributed to driving or being on board transport or handling equipment. A more detailed analysis reveals that in Slovenia almost one third (32.8 %) of all non-fatal accidents in the transportation and storage sector were linked to driving or being on board transport or handling equipment, while shares of at least 25.0 % were also recorded in the Netherlands, Romania and Croatia; by contrast, in Finland and Lithuania, fewer than 1 in 10 non-fatal accidents in the transportation and storage sector resulted from driving or being on board transport or handling equipment.

Figure 4 also shows that almost half (47.9 %) of all fatal accidents in the EU within the transportation and storage sector in 2015 could be attributed to the specific physical activity of driving or being on board transport or handling equipment. There were six EU Member States (out of the 18 for which data are available) where this share rose above three fifths, namely: Spain (67.2 %), Slovenia (66.7 %), Portugal (65.0 %), Italy (63.6 %), Romania (62.9 %) and Hungary (61.9 %).
Figure 4: Accidents at work from driving/being on board a means of transport or handling equipment within the transportation and storage sector, 2015
(% share)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_ph3_03)

Cause of accident

The cause of an accident is defined in terms of the last event differing from the norm that resulted in an accident. In 2015, the most common causes that triggered accidents across 24 of the EU Member States (excluding the Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece and the Netherlands), as shown in Figure 5, included losing control of machines, tools or transport and handling equipment (22.7 % of all non-fatal accidents), slipping, stumbling or falling (21.2 %) or body movement under or with physical stress (20.7 %).

Losing control of machines, tools or transport and handling equipment was also the most common cause of fatal accidents, accounting for almost one third (32.2 %) of the total number of accidents in the EU, while slipping, stumbling or falling (15.2 %) and the breakage, bursting or collapse of material agents (11.3 %) were the only other causes that accounted for double-digit shares of the total number of fatal accidents.
Figure 5: Accidents at work, by cause and economic activity, EU, 2015
(% share)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_ph3_06)
Having identified that the highest number of non-fatal and fatal accidents at work in 2015 were caused by losing control of machines, tools or transport and handling equipment, Figure 6 shows more detailed information for this cause of accidents within the wholesale and retail trade sector. Some 28.7 % of all non-fatal accidents in the EU’s wholesale and retail trade sector could be attributed to losing control of machines, tools or transport and handling equipment, a share that rose to 41.5 % when considering fatal accidents. A more detailed analysis reveals that more than two fifths of all non-fatal accidents in the wholesale and retail trade sectors of Austria, Slovenia and Germany were caused by losing control of machines, tools or transport and handling equipment. A similar analysis reveals that in Luxembourg, Sweden and the United Kingdom, more than four fifths of all fatal accidents in the wholesale and retail trade sector could be attributed to losing control of machines, tools or transport and handling equipment; indeed, this share reached 100.0 % in both Luxembourg and Sweden, while alongside the United Kingdom (85.7 %), Switzerland (83.3 %) also recorded a share above four fifths.
Figure 6: Accidents at work from losing control of machines, tools, or transport and handling equipment within the wholesale and retail trade sector, 2015
(% share)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_ph3_06)

Contact mode of injury

Data on accidents at work by contact mode of injury relate to how the victim of an accident was hurt by the material agent that caused their injury. If there are several modes of injury identified, then the one causing the most serious injury should be recorded. In 2015, the most common contact modes for non-fatal accidents in 27 of the EU Member States (excluding the Czech Republic) included: physical or mental stress (24.4 % of all non-fatal accidents); impact with a stationary object (in other words, the victim was in motion; 23.4 %); contact with a sharp/pointed or rough/coarse agent (15.6 %); and being struck by an object in motion (a collision; 13.7 %). A similar analysis for fatal accidents reveals that the most common contact mode of injury was being struck by an object in motion (29.4 % of all fatal accidents in the EU), followed by impact with a stationary object (19.7%) and being trapped or crushed (13.4 %).

Within the transportation and storage sector, being struck by an object in motion accounted for almost half (48.0 %) of all fatal accidents, while a relatively high share of fatal accidents within the wholesale and retail trade (38.5 %) were attributed to the same mode. By contrast, within the construction sector the most common mode of injury was an impact by a moving victim with a stationary object, which accounted for just over one quarter (25.3 %) of all non-fatal accidents in this sector in the EU and just over one third (33.7 %) of all fatal accidents.
Figure 7: Accidents at work, by contact mode of injury and economic activity, EU, 2015
(% share)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_ph3_08)
This information is developed further in Figure 8 which presents a more detailed analysis of accidents in the construction sector resulting from impact with a stationary object. In 2015, this contact mode of injury accounted for almost half of all non-fatal accidents at work in the construction sectors of Bulgaria (48.5 %) and Greece (47.3 %), a share that fell to 16.9 % in France. A similar analysis reveals that all fatal accidents in the construction sector of Cyprus (100.0 %) could be attributed to impact with a stationary object, as could more than three quarters in Greece (80.0 %) and Lithuania (78.6 %). No such accidents occurred in 2015 in Denmark, Luxembourg, Malta or Finland; note that for these relatively small EU Member States, the absolute number of fatal accidents in this sector may be very small.
Figure 8: Accidents at work from impact with a stationary object (victim in motion) within the construction sector, 2015
(% share)
Source: Eurostat (hsw_ph3_08)

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.

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 traffic accidents (road or other means of transport) for journeys that are made during the course of work but excludes accidents that take place during a journey between home and the workplace.

There are nine variables related to causes and circumstances of accidents at work within the ESAW data collection. According to the ESAW Regulation, countries are free to choose at least three out of these nine variables on causes and circumstances and should report data for these (they may provide information on more than three variables if they choose to do so). As such, the coverage of the EU aggregate varies depending upon those EU Member States that have chosen to provide each individual variable; a note under each table and figure provides details relating to the coverage of the EU aggregate for each specific analysis.

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. Following the ESAW regulation, note that only three out of nine variables on ‘causes and circumstances of the accident’ have to be sent annually to Eurostat. For the remaining six variables transmission is optional. The complete list of nine variables covers: workstation; working environment; working process; specific physical activity; material agent associated with the specific physical activity; deviation; material agent associated with the deviation; contact — mode of injury; material agent associated with the contact — mode of injury. As a result, data and geographical coverage differs between variables; see ‘Notes’ under each table or figure for more details.

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)
Causes and circumstances of accidents at work (ESAW Phase III) (hsw_ph3)
Accidents at work by sex, age, severity, NACE Rev. 2 activity and workstation (hsw_ph3_01)
Accidents at work by sex, age, severity, NACE Rev. 2 activity and working environment (hsw_ph3_02)
Accidents at work by sex, age, severity, NACE Rev. 2 activity and working process (hsw_ph3_03)
Accidents at work by sex, age, severity, NACE Rev. 2 activity and specific physical activity (hsw_ph3_04)
Accidents at work by sex, age, severity, NACE Rev. 2 activity and material agent of specific physical activity (hsw_ph3_05)
Accidents at work by sex, age, severity, NACE Rev. 2 activity and deviation (hsw_ph3_06)
Accidents at work by sex, age, severity, NACE Rev. 2 activity and material agent of deviation (hsw_ph3_07)
Accidents at work by sex, age, severity, NACE Rev. 2 activity and contact mode of injury (hsw_ph3_08)
Accidents at work by sex, age, severity, NACE Rev. 2 activity and material agent of contact mode injury (hsw_ph3_09)