Work Accidents and Occupational Illnesses

Indicator Definition: Work accidents occur during the execution of work and lead to health damage or loss of life (OECD 2007b).

Goal: Elimination of work accidents, at least considerable reduction. Quantification of the goal varies between countries; indicator unit is number of cases per 100.000 workers.

Policy Relevance: Work accidents and occupational illnesses are visible evidence for work hazards. They cause high costs for workers, but also companies and communities[1]. With an increasing likelihood for work accidents and occupational illnesses, the job satisfaction decreases. Sustainability dimensions covered are social and economic aspects.

Limitations of the indicator: The definition of work accidents vary between countries. In some statistics, only major injuries are collected, in others, only injuries that were compensated are recorded. The attribution of the label “occupational illness” is also disputed. The distinct correlation between an illness and the job the patient was employed is hard to prove and remains a cause for negotiations and disputes between insurance companies, patients, and companies.

Methodology: Due to different methods of collection in, but also within the nations, comparisons are difficult. But the ILO Resolution on “Statistics on occupational injuries resulting from accidents at work” (ILO 1998) became a basis for data collection for this indicator and improved comparability considerably. In addition, the 2001 methodology recommendations of the European Statistics on Accidents at Work (ESAW) of the European Commission offered further assistance for an increased comparability of the indicator between nations.

Data source and availability: Data is collected by insurance companies, labor bureaus, social security registers, censuses, and via specific surveys (OECD 2006). Data is usually available on a regional level, is collected at regular intervals (one month to one year, depending on the data source), and is available with moderate time lags.

Quality of the data: Seasonal adjustment is not necessary, data is only lowly aggregated.

  • [1] Costs for those accidents and illnesses are estimated between 0.4 and 4% of GDP in variouscountries (EASHW 1998; Takala 2002).
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