Over 4,000 workers die in work-related accidents across EU

Figures on accidents at work across the EU, published by Eurostat in March 1998, show a strong pattern in the distribution of fatal and non-fatal accidents by sector, gender and country. Male workers in agriculture, construction and road transport are most prone to suffer accidents at work, while workers in Portugal, Belgium, Spain and Italy are most at risk.

The latest available figures on accidents at work across the European Union, published by the Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat) on 16 March 1998, show that 4,084 people died in work-related accidents in 1994 (one worker in every 26,000) ("Accidents at work in the European Union in 1994", Statistics in focus, Population and social conditions, no 2/98) There is a strong sectoral imbalance in the incidence of fatal accidents at work, which was twice the average in construction, agriculture and transport and well below average in retailing, wholesaling, finance, hotels and catering. Gender imbalances were also clearly visible, with men 10 times more likely to be involved in fatal accidents than their female counterparts. This can be attributed to the segregation of men and women in certain sectors and occupations.

The figure for fatalities rises to 6,423 if road deaths and those from natural causes occurring during working hours are included.

Data show that in 1994 there were as many as 5 million accidents at work which resulted in a worker being absent for more than three days. The incidence of non-fatal accidents shows a similar distribution by sector and gender to that for fatal accidents. Young men were more likely to be involved in non-fatal accidents, while older males were more highly represented in the statistics on fatal accidents at work. The report states that two-thirds of non-fatal injuries were to the hands.

Importantly, Eurostat figures show a significant difference between the incidence of fatal accidents at work between Member States. Workers in Portugal are five times more likely to be killed in accidents at work that their UK counterparts. Risk is also well above the Community average in Belgium, Spain and Italy. The highest figures for non-fatal accidents resulting in absences from work of more than three days were found in Portugal and Luxembourg, with Spain, Germany, France and Austria also being above the Community average. The lowest rates of non-fatal accidents were found in Ireland, the UK and Sweden.

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