EU: Safety Success Is No Accident

A new report points the way to a dramatic drop in European Union workplace deaths and injuries and discusses some successful injury reduction programs.

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A new report points the way to dramatic drop in European Union (EU) workplace deaths and injuries.

Deaths and injuries at work could be dramatically reduced if organizations systematically monitored accidents and carried out preventive programs based on the involvement of all key stakeholders, including employees, according to a major study of 22 successful accident prevention programs in Europe. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work examined accident prevention initiatives taken from all 15 member states of the European Union (EU).

Approximately 5,500 people are killed each year at work in the EU and 75,000 are so severely injured they have to stop full-time employment. Latest figures reveal that in 1998, 4.7 million occupational accidents led to more than three days'' absence from work. It is estimated that work-related accidents cost the EU 150 million lost-work days each year. Direct insurance costs alone are in the region of 20 billion Euro dollars annually. However, a new Agency report, "How to Reduce Workplace Accidents" shows that it is possible to produce a significant drop in these figures. Examples of such accident prevention programs include:

  • A campaign in Austria to prevent falls at work which reduced them by more than 10 percent;
  • Spain''s Programma Aragn (focusing on direct contact between the regional authority and companies) resulted in accident rates dropping by over 25 percent at high-risk companies;
  • In Germany, a construction industry campaign reduced falls from heights by 30 percent;
  • The Finnish "Tuttava" method for general organization of the workplace appears reduce accidents by as much as 20-40 percent, but a program to address specific risks systematically reduces them by over 50 percent.

"Occupational accident levels are still too high in Europe," commented Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. "That is why the Agency and its network have focused this year''s European Week on accident prevention. I am very pleased to launch this report as it clearly shows that accidents can be substantially reduced."

Many of the lessons learned from these case studies can be transferred to other companies, sectors and countries, added Konkolewsky, acting as "a source of inspiration and motivation to continue preventive efforts in this important area."

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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