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Occupational Health and Safety: Estimating the Cost of Worker Injuries, Illnesses and Fatalities in the EU

Sandy Smith

The need to improve working life in the European Union (EU) remains urgent, according to a new report that estimates the financial burden of work-related diseases, injuries and deaths.

In 2016, approximately 2.4 million non-fatal accidents requiring at least 4 days of absence from work and 3,182 fatal accidents were reported in EU Member States. In addition to these accident rates, figures from 2013 show that 7.9 percent of the workforce suffered from occupational health problems, of which 36 percent resulted in absence from work for at least 4 days (Eurostat, 2018a). These occupational injuries, diseases and deaths result in high economic costs to individuals, employers, governments and society.

In a new report, EU-OSHA details the findings of the second part of its ‘Costs and benefits of occupational safety and health’ project. It describes two approaches to estimating the financial burden of work-related diseases, injuries and death.

Cost estimations are provided for five Member States — Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Poland — chosen to represent Europe’s diverse geography, industries and social systems. The report compares the results and explores the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. The methodology and main findings are outlined in the report’s executive summary and via SlideShare .

According to the report, negative effects of serious workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths for businesses may include costly early retirement, the loss of skilled staff, absenteeism as well as presenteeism (when employees go to work despite illness, increasing the likelihood of mistakes) and high medical costs and insurance premiums. In a previous project, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) estimated that 3.9 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) and 3.3 percent of European GDP is spent on dealing with occupational injuries and diseases (EU-OSHA, 2017a). This percentage may vary widely between countries, in particular between western and non-western countries, depending on the industrial mix, legislative context and prevention incentives.

Two approaches were developed to estimate costs: a bottom-up approach based on individual components of costs — direct, indirect and intangible costs -and a top-down approach, based on international data on the economic burden of injury and disease. Estimating the economic impacts of work-related ill health is invaluable for policymakers. It enables them to make informed decisions about safety and health policies and strategies.

Download the full report on estimating the costs of work-related injuries and disease.

Find out more about the costs and benefits of OSH.

August 05, 2019 @ 09:48 AM EDT Manufacturing, Construction, Energy - Oil and Gas, Metals and Mining Health & Safety

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