Social. Accidents at work: does France still have the worst results in Europe?

Condemns the “massacre” and calls for a law to put an end to it: CGT general secretary Sophie Binet assures that France “holds the European record” for the number of fatal accidents at work.

“The Great Sacrifice”

Guest on LCI last Thursday, Sophie Binet, said: ā€œEvery day four employees die at work or in their workplace. And the problem is that these numbers have been increasing for 5 years. (…) If we only look at deaths at work, there are 789 in a year, which means more than two per day. (…) This massacre, for which France holds the record in Europe, could have been prevented,” she said.

“European record”? This is no longer the case… but recently: in 2019, this sad record was still held by France. However, it remains very poorly rated and remains last when we consider all occupational accidents – fatal or not. On the other hand, if the criteria tend to converge, some countries are suspected of under-reporting these accidents.

Fatal accidents: France among the worst

In detail, according to the latest data available from Eurostat, covering the year 2021, France recorded an average of 3.32 deaths per 100,000 workers, slightly lower than the top three (Latvia: 4.29, Lithuania: 3.75, Malta: 3, 34). But very far from the EU 27 average (1.76) and the “best” students like Greece (0.58) or the Netherlands (0.33). Note that Eurostat’s rankings include several other non-EU countries, such as Switzerland.

In France, the health insurance company recorded 645 deaths at work in 2021 and another 738 in 2022 – years that are difficult to compare due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, this equates to approximately two deaths per day, including – like social security – workplace suicides, diseases, etc.

More accidents in France than anywhere else

On the other hand, France remains last in the “ranking” if we take into account all occupational accidents – and not only those resulting in the death of a worker: with more than 3,300 injuries per 100,000 workers, it appears ahead of Switzerland (no – EU), Portugal, Spain and Denmark.

According to health insurance data from 2022, more than 560,000 injuries resulting in work stoppage or incapacity were recorded in France.

But be careful: Eurostat counts lost days (4 or more) and arrives at a lower figure of 447,000 accidents for France. However, the interest is to obtain comparable data from one country to another with equivalent data.

A standardized indicator… but imperfect

Since 1998, the International Labor Organization has tended to converge the criteria for reporting and recording occupational accidents, reminds the OECD.

Thus, differences may persist in the case of discomfort or injury that would not be “directly” related to professional activity. Likewise, European statistics for all countries exclude accidents that occur on the way home to work ā€“ so part of the difference between French figures and European figures, for example.

However, it is mainly the legal and financial aspect that risks influencing the numbers: according to the Eurogip observatory, workers and/or employers under-report occupational accidents with the justification that there is no special support in this case. In some countries, Eurostat therefore observes “undercoverage” – sectors of activity or types of employment are excluded from the statistics.

However, Eurostat, which weighs its data, knows the problems” to create a standardized overall incidence rate ā€, as detailed in his methodology.

A delicate comparison

Even the development can be difficult to understand: Greece corrected its number in 2016, which led to a very sharp drop in the number of declarations. At the same time, The exemptions in place for several states ended up having a “significant impact on occupational accident data” for 2014. In France, for example, “this led to an apparent substantial increase in the number of recorded accidents compared to 2013”.

The Covid-19 pandemic has finally made comparisons more difficult in recent years: the partial unemployment of many workers has led to a significant drop in accidents.

Health insurance has seen a long-term decline in the number of accidents: more than 750,000 at the beginning of the 20th century, compared to 600,000 in recent years. But the union also notes that since then, the number has not decreased… and is helping to keep France at the bottom of the rankings. In most other countries of the European Union, the decline continues.

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