National health and safety strategy aims to reduce number of workplace accidents

The number of accidents at work, including fatal accidents, continues to decline in Portugal. However, although the number of working days lost due to accidents is also decreasing, the cumulative number of immediate days lost due to accidents increased. In order to reduce the occurrence of occupational accidents in a continuous and sustainable way, the government adopted the National Strategy for Safety and Health at Work for the period 2008–2012.

According to most recent statistics of the Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity (Ministério do Trabalho e da Solidariedade Social, MTSS), the number of reported occupational accidents continues to decline (PT0704019I). The number of working days lost due to workplace accidents decreased from 171,661 days in 2003 to 166,642 days in 2005, but the cumulative number of immediate days lost due to workplace accidents increased from 6.3 million to 6.8 million working days in the same period. This is reflected in the increase of the average days lost per occupational accident from 36.7 days to 40.9 days a year in the same period.

The manufacturing and construction sectors continue to have the highest incidence of occupational accidents, accounting for more than half of the total number of accidents: in 2005, 32.6% of such accidents occurred in manufacturing and 22.5% occurred in construction. Men continue to be involved in most accidents (78.7%), as well as workers aged between 25 and 44 years of both sexes, who account for 54.2% of all occupational accidents.

Moreover, workers in jobs requiring low qualifications experience most accidents. According to the 2005 figures, craft and related trades workers (42.5%), workers in elementary occupations (15.7%) and plant and machine operators and assemblers (12.6%) account for over 70% of all reported workplace accidents.

Decreasing trend in fatal accidents

Figures from the Authority for Working Conditions (Autoridade para as Condições de Trabalho, ACT), which is the official body responsible for investigating all fatal accidents at work and their possible causes, continue to point to a decreasing trend in the number of such accidents. The number of fatal accidents increased slightly to 163 accidents in 2007 compared with 157 accidents in 2006. However, in 2008, even if figures are equal to the previous year’s figures for November and December, the number of fatal accidents was not expected to exceed 130.

Figure 1: Number of fatal accidents at work in Portugal, 2004–2008

Number of fatal accidents at work in Portugal, 2004–2008

Note: * Figure last updated on 31 October 2008.

Source: Authority for Working Conditions statistics, 2008

Number of fatal accidents at work in Portugal, 2004–2008

By sector of activity

Construction is still the sector with the highest incidence of fatal accidents at work (Figure 2). In 2007, this sector registered 50.3% of the total number of fatal accidents, while 19% occurred in manufacturing and 13.5% in commerce and services. The manufacturing sector recorded a significant decline in the number of fatal accidents between 2005 and 2007. However, this declining trend came to a halt in the construction, and commerce and services sectors, with both sectors showing increases in the number of fatal accidents in 2007.

Figure 2: Fatal accidents at work in Portugal, by sector, 2005–2007 (%)

Fatal accidents at work in Portugal, by sector, 2005–2007 (%)

Source: Authority for Working Conditions statistics, 2008

Fatal accidents at work in Portugal, by sector, 2005–2007 (%)

By cause of accident

Falls from heights, being crushed or being hit by a projected or falling object were the cause of about 64% of all fatal accidents in 2007 (PT0805029I). Surprisingly, the number of fatal accidents as a result of falls from heights almost doubled in 2007 (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Fatal accidents at work in Portugal, by cause of accident, 2005–2007 (%)

Fatal accidents at work in Portugal, by cause of accident, 2005–2007 (%)

Note: ‘Other causes’ include occupational accidents caused by drowning, explosion, asphyxia, tripping over and accidents still under investigation.

Source: Authority for Working Conditions statistics, 2008

Fatal accidents at work in Portugal, by cause of accident, 2005–2007 (%)

National strategy for safety and health at work

Aware of the high rates of occupational accidents occurring in Portugal over the past three years, albeit some decreases, and the subsequent high social costs, the MTSS Council approved the National Strategy for Safety and Health at Work for the period 2008–2012 (Decree Law No.121/2006 of 6 June 2006). The council also recognises the need to reduce the gap between the Portuguese figures concerning occupational accidents and diseases and the general European pattern.

Overall, the strategy aims to reduce the rates of occupational accidents and to improve workers’ health and well-being in a constant and consolidated way. It contributes to the establishment of a coherent framework of measures that promote health and safety at work. In other words, the strategy focuses on the development of effective policies and the promotion of health and safety at work. It covers a total of 10 objectives, including 59 different specific measures. So far, no information is available about the results of these measures.

References

Direcção Geral de Estudos, Estatística e Planeamento (DGEEP), Estatísticas em síntese – Acidentes de trabalho 2005 [Synthesis of accidents at work statistics 2005], DGEEP, Lisbon, April 2008, available at: http://www.dgeep.mtss.gov.pt/estatistica/acidentes/at2005sintese.pdf (in Portuguese).

DGEEP, Estatísticas em síntese – Acidentes de trabalho 2004 [Synthesis of accidents at work statistics 2004], DGEEP, Lisbon, June 2007, available at: http://www.dgeep.mtss.gov.pt/estatistica/acidentes/at2004sintese.pdf (in Portuguese).

Authority for Working Conditions, Investigated fatal accidents at work, last updated 31 October 2008, available at: http://www.igt.gov.pt/DownLoads/content/Estatisticas_Acidentes_Mortais_ACT_2004_2008.pdf (in Portuguese).

Heloísa Perista and Jorge Cabrita, CESIS

Useful? Interesting? Tell us what you think. Hide comments

Eurofound welcomes feedback and updates on this regulation

Add new comment