4th Dec 2023

Work-related deaths on rise in almost half of EU

  • 674 workers died as a result of an accident at work in France, followed by 601 in Italy and 435 in Germany (Photo: Unsplash)
Listen to article

The number of fatal accidents at work increased in 12 EU member states from 2020 50 2021, and more than a fifth of all fatal accidents occurred in the construction sector, new Eurostat data shows.

674 workers died as a result of an accident at work in France, followed by 601 in Italy and 435 in Germany. On the other hand, Iceland, Cyprus and Luxembourg recorded fewer than 10 fatal accidents.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

On a broader scale, 3,347 accidents resulted in the death of the victim within one year of the accident, a slight decrease of 11 at the EU level on the previous year.

(Photo: Eurostat)

Some 65.5 percent of all fatal accidents took place in construction, transport and storage, manufacturing and agriculture and fishing. The construction sector alone accounted for 22.5 percent of the total.

In this context, men are more likely to have a work-related accident, partly because of the male-dominated sectors in which they work, but also because they are more likely to work full-time, which increases the likelihood of having an accident at work.

What's worse, the outlook is not good either. According to a forecast analysis conducted by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) in late 2022, if nothing changes in the EU-27, another 25,166 deaths at work are expected by 2029.

At the current trend, deaths at work will never disappear in countries such as Spain or France, and will continue into the next century in others such as Italy or Hungary, ETUI pointed out.

"Many lives have been saved through stronger safety legislation over the last few decades, but our figures show that progress is coming to a halt in some countries and being completely reversed in others," European Trade Union Confederation deputy general secretary Claes-Mikael Stahl said back then.

And while the number of fatal accidents fell slightly in 2021, the number of non-fatal accidents — those resulting in at least four calendar days' absence from work — increased by 5.5 percent from one year to the next.

Looking at the figures for non-fatal accidents, 2.88 million accidents were recorded in the EU. This is over 150,000 more than the previous year, partly due to workers returning to the workplace after restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic were lifted or reduced.

The most common accidents resulted in 7–13 days' absence from work, followed by those resulting in one to three months' absence (19 percent of the total).

Only five member states recorded a decrease in the number of non-fatal accidents in 2021: Slovenia, Romania, Hungary, Cyprus, and Italy.

New ways of working and the health and safety challenges of climate change create new risks for workers — and call for more EU and national action.

"Zero death at work is not a utopian dream," reads a manifesto calling for zero death at work by 2030, signed by several MEPs, representatives of trade unions and ministries of labour from across the EU.

"The trend in fatal workplace accidents is down and eradication of fatal accidents is achievable," it concludes.


How law encourages exploitation of migrant workers

Even though the European labour market increasingly needs them, migrant workers from third countries remain highly vulnerable. Part of this vulnerability is an artefact of the law.

The missing metric in EU labour policy: job quality

In recent decades, the EU has focused so much on job creation that it has forgotten about the quality of those jobs — with major differences between regions and between men and women, a new study reveals.


The EU's U-turn on caged farm animals — explained

A European citizens' initiative — signed by 1.4 million people — saw the EU Commission promise to ban cages for 300 million farmed animals. Then the farming lobby got involved.


'Pay or okay?' — Facebook & Instagram vs the EU

Since last week, Mark Zuckerberg's Meta corporation is forcing its European users to either accept their intrusive privacy practices — or pay €156 per year to access Facebook and Instagram without tracking advertising.

Latest News

  1. Afghanistan is a 'forever emergency,' says UN head
  2. EU public procurement reform 'ineffective', find auditors
  3. COP28 warned over-relying on carbon capture costs €27 trillion
  4. Optimising Alzheimer's disease health care pathways across Europe
  5. Georgian far-right leader laughs off potential EU sanctions
  6. The EU's U-turn on caged farm animals — explained
  7. EU-China summit and migration files in focus This WEEK
  8. COP28 debates climate finance amid inflated accounting 'mess'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  3. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  4. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?
  5. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  6. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  3. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  4. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch
  6. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us