Slovakia: Positive trend in number of occupational accidents

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Changes in the behaviour of employers regarding occupational health and safety, as well as activities by the National Labour Inspectorate and employees’ representatives, have contributed to a decrease in the number of accidents in the workplace. A recent report provides a comprehensive overview of trends in accidents in organisations within the inspectorate’s authority.

Background

According to a report from the National Labour Inspectorate (NIP), there was a decrease in the number of occupational accidents, occupational diseases and serious industrial accidents in 2016, especially in the number of fatalities and accidents that resulted in serious health issues.

Compared with the number of accidents in the reference year of 2007, the decrease in the number of accidents has helped to fulfil one of the objectives of the Occupational Safety and Health Strategy in the Slovak Republic for 2016–2020 and the programme for its implementation.

Positive trend in the number of occupational accidents

Although the number of registered occupational accidents in Slovakia has increased since 2014, there has been a decrease in the number of fatal accidents and accidents that resulted in serious health issues in organisations under labour inspection supervision. This is in accordance with Act No. 125/2006 on labour inspection, with the exception of the armed forces, fire and rescue brigades, mining authorities and financial administration.

In 2014, there were 39 fatal occupational accidents (all of which involved men), 14 less than in 2013 (a decrease of 26.42%) There were also 146 registered severe occupational accidents that resulted in serious health issues of which 124 involved men and 22 involved women. By way of comparison, in 2013 there were 155 registered severe occupational accidents that resulted in serious health issues (a decrease of 5.81%).

In 2015, there were 57 fatal occupational accidents, an increase of 18 compared with 2014 (46.15%). There were also 162 registered severe occupational accidents that resulted in serious health issues.  This was an increase of 16 compared with 2014 (6.57%). Of the 57 fatal occupational accidents in 2015, 55 involved men (96.49%) and 2 involved women. Of the 162 severe occupational accidents, 141 involved men and 21 women. There were no serious occupational accidents involving juveniles.

In 2016, there were 40 fatal occupational accidents, 17 fewer than in 2015 (27.27%). There were also 103 registered severe occupational accidents that resulted in serious health issues, a decrease of 51 compared to 2015. Of the fatalities, 38 involved men and 2 involved women and of those that suffered an occupational accident with severe health damage, 87 were men and 16 women.

It is worth noting that 2016 and 2014 are the only years after 2011 where the number of fatalities has fallen.

With regard to the professions and classification of injured persons in 2014, 2015 and 2016, the highest number of fatal occupational accidents happened to drivers (truck drivers, personal car drivers and bus drivers) and operators of mobile machinery. In addition, there were five fatal occupational accidents of auxiliary workers in the mining, construction, manufacturing and transport sectors. Operators of stationary machines and equipment suffered three fatal occupational accidents.

Statistics covering registered occupational accidents are shown in the table below. 

Overview of occupational accidents in Slovakia, 2011–2016
Year Number of registered occupational accidents Fatal occupational accidents Accidents at work with serious health impacts
2016 9,343 40 103
2015 9,036 57 162
2014 8,195 39 146
2013 8,283 53 156
2012 8,245 53 158
2011 6,927 39 137

Source: National Labour Inspectorate, 2016

The construction industry is the sector where most accidents occur, such as in the construction of major road developments. According to available statistics, the causes of some fatal accidents are often unknown because they are included in the high number of traffic accidents investigated by the police and so the NIP records the cause of these accidents as ‘unknown’.

Despite a number of initiatives by employers and supervisory bodies in occupational safety and health (OSH), a significant number of fatal occupational accidents still occurred in 2016. According to NIP, most of these accidents are attributed to failings or the ‘human factor’ on the side of employees (breaching the legislation and/or operational rules and prescribed working methods).

Another recurrent reason for fatal accidents is the misconduct of employees, sometimes working under the influence of alcohol. In the case of a fatal accident and/or and a severe occupational accident that resulted in serious health issues as a result of such reasons, a fine of up to €33,000 can be imposed on the employer breaching the related law.

Sources and causes of occupational accidents 

Most of the fatal occupational accidents occurred in two main areas:

  • means of transport, roadworks and haulage;
  • falls of people, materials, loads and objects.

The largest share of fatal occupational accidents and accidents that resulted in serious health issues occur in manufacturing, civil engineering, transportation and storage, as well as in the wholesale and retail trade.

The most common sources of serious occupational accidents that resulted in serious health issues involved machinery – driving, machines and tools, means of transport, roadworks and haulage – or accidents related to road transport such as falls involving people, material, loads and objects.

The most common causes of fatal occupational accidents as well as occupational accidents that resulted in serious health issues was the use of dangerous procedures or working methods, including unauthorised actions.

Fatal occupational accidents and accidents that result in serious health issues are not only major emotional and psychological events, but they can also create an economic burden, especially for the injured employee and their family. However, there has been an increase in support provided by the Social Insurance Agency (SP). For example, if an employee dies as a result of an occupational accident, regardless of whether they are an employee of the state or of a private company, their spouse receives a one-off compensation payment from SP of an amount 730 times the daily assessment base of the deceased, up to a maximum of €45,109.

Current activities of supervisory authorities and social partners

The representatives of the government, trade unions and employer associations commemorate the victims of occupational accidents every year. In 2017, the focus was on the importance of prevention in OSH. The representatives of the government and the social partners name the people who sadly did not return to their families, as well as those injured by dangerous working conditions.

The change in attitudes and behaviour of employers concerning OSH , the activities of the labour inspectorate and employees’ representatives in enterprises, as well as the implementation of the OSH Policy Strategy for Slovakia, 2016–2020, have all contributed to the decrease in the number of serious occupational accidents in the country.

To help prevent occupational accidents, NIP has intensified its activities for employers in the areas of culture, prevention and consultancy on OSH issues, regularly issuing guidelines on good practices and educational documents for employers. In the framework of different campaigns, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has organised free seminars on occupational accidents and the development of suitable and safe working conditions at the  workplace in Slovakia. NIP will further target its activities on sectors with the highest number of accidents and organisations entitled to OSH education and training, and the performance of safety procedures in companies.

A significant contribution has also come from trade unions in the Confederation of Trade Unions of Slovakia (KOZ SR), which provide, through OSH inspectors, social control over the observation of OSH practices and working conditions in enterprises where trade unions operate.

Compared with the number of accidents in the reference year of 2007, the decrease in the number of accidents has helped to fulfil one of the objectives of the Occupational Safety and Health Strategy in the Slovak Republic for 2016–2020 and the programme for its implementation.

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