Back Accidents at work in the EU: how many in 2020?


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In 2020, almost 2.7 million non-fatal work accidents resulted in workers being absent from work for four days or more in the EU, while 3 355 work-related accidents were fatal.

Almost all the sectors of the economy recorded fewer accidents in 2020 compared with 2019, except for the health sector. This decreasing trend could be explained by the reduction or closure of specific activities with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. 

The health sector recorded a significant increase in accidents (+17% compared with 2019). The proportion of accidents recorded within the health sector increased from 11% of the total accidents in 2019 to 15% of the total accidents in 2020 at the EU level. 

This information comes from data on accidents at work published by Eurostat today. The article presents a handful of findings from the more detailed Statistics Explained article.

Severity of the accidents at work in the EU

Another way to analyse the information on work-related accidents is to look into their severity. The severity of an accident at work is the number of full calendar days where the victim is unfit for work due to an accident at work.


Bar chart: Number of accidents at work in the EU by level of severity based on absence from work, in thousands, comparison 2019 - 2020

Source dataset: hsw_n2_04

In 2020, the accidents that resulted in 7–13 days' absence from work represented the most frequent type of accidents (same as in 2019). There were 676 781 such accidents (25% of the total number of accidents).

Accidents that resulted in 1–3 months of absence from work were the second-most frequent type of accident in 2020 (519 695; 19% of the total number of accidents). On the other hand, 2019 data show that the second-most frequent type of accident was less severe (4-6 days absence from work). These less severe types of accidents (4-6 days absence from work) were the third-most frequent type of accident in 2020 (455 924; 17% of the total accidents). 

The least frequent types of accidents by severity in 2020 were fatal 3 355 (0.1% of the total number of accidents) compared with 3 408 fatal accidents recorded in 2019. The second less frequent type of accidents were those that resulted in permanent incapacity to work or 183 days or more of absence from work 117 700 cases (4% of the total number of accidents) in 2020 compared with 139 482 such accidents in 2019. 


For more information:

Methodological notes:

  • An accident at work is defined as an 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’). The number of accidents in a particular year is likely to be related to some extent to the overall level of economic activity of a country and the total number of people employed in its economy. 


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