Number of occupational accidents on the decline
According to statistics issued by the Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity, the number of accidents at work is on the decline. Moreover, as recent figures show, this trend also applies to fatal accidents at work. However, the reality is that more than 150 persons die every year in Portugal as a result of an accident at work. Through its National Action Programme for Growth and Employment 2005–2008, the government aims to promote risk prevention at the workplace.
Between 2002 and 2004, the total number of reported occupational accidents decreased by about 4.4%, falling from 248,097 accidents a year in 2002 to 237,222 accidents in 2004, according to statistics of the Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity (Ministério do Trabalho e da Solidariedade Social, MTSS). The immediate days lost due to occupational accidents also declined from some 7.6 million to 6.3 million working days a year over the same period; thus, the average days lost per occupational accident decreased from 43.1 days to 36.7 days a year.
In 2003, the manufacturing and construction sectors saw the highest incidence of occupational accidents; about one third (33%) of all such accidents occurred in the manufacturing sector while the construction sector recorded 36.2% of the total number of accidents. Men experienced most of the accidents, with about 80% of male workers being involved in occupational accidents. Over half (53%) of the total number of accidents occurred among workers aged between 25 and 44 years of both sexes.
In terms of occupational distribution, craft and related trades workers suffered most of the accidents, with 42.4% of all occupational accidents, followed by the group of workers in elementary occupations, and plant and machine operators and assemblers, at 25%.
Fatal accidents in the workplace
More recent figures from the General Labour Inspectorate (Inspecção-Geral do Trabalho, IGT), which is the official body responsible for inquiring all of the fatal accidents at work and their possible causes, continue to show a decline in the number of these accidents. Over a two-year period, the number of fatal occupational accidents decreased by about 20%: from 197 fatal accidents in 2004 to 157 fatal accidents in 2006.
Number of fatal accidents at work in Portugal, 2003–2007
Notes: * Figure last updated on 15 April, 2007.
Source: General Labour Inspectorate statistics, 2007
The construction and manufacturing sectors are more prone to fatal accidents (Figure 2). In 2006, construction registered 45.2% of the total number of fatal accidents, while 24.8% of fatal accidents occurred in the manufacturing sector. Nevertheless, both sectors recorded a significant decrease in the number of fatal accidents between 2004 and 2006, with almost 30% of fewer fatal accidents in 2006 than in 2004. When taking into account company size, almost 50% of all fatal accidents at work occurred in companies employing fewer than 10 workers.
Figure 1: Fatal accidents at work in Portugal, by sector of activity, 2004–2006
Source: General Labour Inspectorate statistics, 2007
Although the total number of fatal accidents at work that are caused by falls from a height, being crushed or hit by a projected or falling object decreased, these occupational accidents still account for most of the work-related fatalities and represented 51% of all registered fatal occupational accidents in 2006 (Figure 3).
Fatal accidents in Portugal, by cause of accident, 2004–2006
Note: ‘Other causes’ include occupational accidents through drowning, explosion, asphyxia, tripping over and other accidents still under investigation.
Source: General Labour Inspectorate statistics
Risk prevention plan
In 2001, the Portuguese government and the social partners agreed to develop and apply a National Action Plan (NAP) for the prevention of occupational accidents, which was intended to be a comprehensive policy instrument to prevent occupational risks and work-related accidents for the following three years. However, no practical measures were taken under this action plan.
In 2005, the idea of the NAP was re-introduced in the National Action Programme for Growth and Employment 2005–2008 (Programa Nacional de Acção para o Crescimento e o Emprego, PNACE). The plan aims at improving working conditions in terms of health, hygiene and safety at work as well as reducing substantially the incidence rate of occupational accidents and diseases, and the PNACE states that it should be implemented by 2008. However, its actual application and results have yet to emerge.
Direcção Geral de Estudos, Estatística e Planeamento (DGEEP), Estatísticas em síntese – Acidentes de trabalho 2003 [Synthesis of accidents at work statistics 2003], DGEEP, Lisbon, September 2006, available at: http://www.dgeep.mtss.gov.pt/estatistica/acidentes/at2003sintese.pdf (in Portuguese).
DGEEP, Estatísticas em síntese – Acidentes de trabalho 2002 [Synthesis of accidents at work statistics 2002], DGEEP, Lisbon, January 2006, available at: http://www.dgeep.mtss.gov.pt/estatistica/acidentes/at2002sintese.pdf (in Portuguese).
General Labour Inspectorate statistics, available at: http://www.igt.gov.pt/ (in Portuguese).
Heloísa Perista and Jorge Cabrita, CESIS - Centro de Estudos para a Intervenção Social