Sectors and occupations

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Klaus Kuhl, Kooperationsstelle Hamburg IFE GmbH, Germany

Introduction

Traditionally, there has been a focus within Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) on what are regarded as the ‘high-risk’ industrial sectors such as mining (and quarrying), fishing and construction.  This is reflected in the preparation of specific OSH Directives covering these sectors.  To some extent this reflected a focus on the ‘headline’ issue of fatal accidents where these sectors tended to predominate.  More recently however, there has been a growing recognition that, although such accidents are clearly important, this adopts a somewhat narrow perspective that may not provide the best reflection of OSH concerns, or the overall burden of OSH on the workforce and the wider community. For example, a UK-based study[1] estimated in 2016 that there were approximately 12,000 deaths each year in the UK due to occupational respiratory diseases resulting from exposures to chemicals, fibres (particularly asbestos) and dusts.  This can be contrasted with the 144 fatal injuries at work in the UK in 2015/16[2] and the estimated 1.3 million people (who worked in 2015/16) who reported that they were suffering from an illness they believed was caused or made worse by their work[3].

This article, drawn largely from various EU sources and statistics, examines the risks of accidents and work-related diseases in different sectors and occupations across the EU from a variety of differing perspectives.  This shows that, although in some instances the ‘traditional’ heavy industries predominate (e.g. in respect of fatal accidents), other sets of data provide a different perspective.  For example, in respect of musculoskeletal disorders (the health problem affecting the most workers across the EU-28) sectors such as the wholesale retail trade, and hotels and restaurants (not conventionally regarded as high risk) feature highly in the incidence of such problems.  Similarly in respect of health problems associated with psychosocial risks (after musculoskeletal health problems, the second most frequently reported work-related health problem) the two highest ranking sectors are education and financial intermediation.

From this it will be seen that, depending on the perspective adopted, there are a number of sectors, industries and occupations which have a high percentage of accidents and work-related diseases.  In fact, each sector has its own predominant safety (and particularly health) problems. The causes of accidents and ill-health in the different sectors  are manifold. In order to prevent these health and safety risks, legal requirements and preventive measures need to be similarly complex.


Definitions

Sectors

Sectors in the European Union are defined and classified by Eurostat [1], in line with the NACE regulations. The classification system has undergone remarkable changes since it was introduced in 1961, as can be seen when comparing NACE revision 1 of 1990 with revision 2 of 2008 (see table 1). The changes reflect different production forms (not considered in revision 1) and emerging new industries. Especially the increasing relevance of the service sector and the information sector is shown at the highest section level.

Table 1: Comparison of NACE revisions 1 and 2

Statistical Classification of Economic Activities NACE Rev. 1 (1990) Statistical Classification of Economic Activities in the European Community, Rev. 2 (2008)
A Agriculture, hunting and forestry

B Fishing

A Agriculture, forestry and fishing
C Mining and quarrying B Mining and quarrying
D Manufacturing C Manufacturing
E Electricity, gas and water supply D Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply

E Water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities

F Construction F Construction
G Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and personal and household goods G Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles
H Hotels and restaurants I Accommodation and food service activities
I Transport, storage and communication H Transportation and storage
J Information and communication

J Financial intermediation

K Financial and insurance activities
K Real estate, renting and business activities L Real estate activities
M Professional, scientific and technical activities
L Public administration and defence; compulsory social security N Administrative and support service activities

O Public administration and defence; compulsory social security

M Education P Education
N Health and social work Q Human health and social work activities
R Arts, entertainment and recreation
O Other community, social and personal service activities S Other service activities
P Private households with employed persons T Activities of households as employers; undifferentiated goods- and services-producing activities of households for own use
Q Extra-territorial organisations and bodies U Activities of extraterritorial organisations and bodies

Source: adapted from[4]

However, most statistical overviews and analyses regarding OSH still have to use revision 1 (1.1), because they analyse data from before 2008, which can make it difficult to compare the figures with more recent data that would reflect revision 2.

The relevance of a sector is usually indicated by employment figures and turnover (gross value added - GVA). When comparing data, some significant trends become visible:

Table 2: Relevance of sectors and trends

2000 EU-27

Ranking according to total employment

2005 EU-27

Ranking according to GVA

2010 EU-27

Ranking according to total employment

2009 EU-27

Ranking according to GVA

1. Manufacturing 1. Real-estate, renting and business-activities 1. Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles 1. Manufacturing
2. Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles 2. Manufacturing 2. Manufacturing 2. Distribution trades
3. Human health and social work activities 3. Wholesale and retail, repair-of-vehicles-and-personal-goods 3. Human health and social work activities 3. Professional, scientific & technical activities
4. Construction 4. Transport, storage and communication 4. Construction 4. Construction
5. Agriculture, forestry and fishing 5. Health and social work 5. Education 5. Information & communication
6. Public administration-and-defence, compulsory-social-security 6. Public administration-and-defence, compulsory-social-security 6. Public administration-and-defence, compulsory-social-security 6. Transport & storage
7. Education 7. Construction 7. Administrative and support service activities 7. Administration-and-support services
8. Transportation and storage 8. Financial intermediation 8. Professional, scientific and technical activities 8. Real-estate activities
9. Professional, scientific and technical activities 9. Education 9. Agriculture, forestry and fishing 9. Electricity, gas, steam and air cond. supply
10. Administrative and support service activities 10. Other community, social-and-personal service activities 10. Transportation and storage 10. Accommodation and food services
11. Accommodation and food service activities 11. Hotels and restaurants 11. Accommodation and food service activities 11. Water supply, waste and remediation
12. Financial and insurance activities 12. Electricity, gas and water supply 12. Information and communication 12. Mining and quarrying
13. Information and communication 13. Agriculture, hunting and forestry 13. Financial and insurance activities 13. Repair: computer, personal & household goods
14. Other service activities 14. Mining and quarrying 14. Other service activities
15. Activities of households 15. Activities of households 15. Activities of households
16. Arts, entertainment and recreation 16. Fishing 16. Arts, entertainment and recreation
17. Real estate activities 17. Real estate activities
18. Electricity, gas, steam and air cond. supply 18. Water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities
19. Water supply; sewerage, waste management and remediation activities 19. Electricity, gas, steam and air cond. suppl
20. Mining and quarrying 20. Mining and quarrying

Source: Compiled by the author, adapted from[5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

In general, there is a gradually declining role for manufacturing and agriculture, while distribution, transport, services in general, consultation, education and health services are steadily increasing. There are, however, considerable differences across the EU.

Many of these trends can be explained by globalisation and the increasing interdependence of national economies, which has led to the rapid flow of cross-border goods, services, technology, and capital. It has largely featured developed economies integrating with less developed ones, by means of foreign direct investment, the reduction of trade barriers, and, in many cases, migration.[10] This results in a tendency to have low cost labour outsourced to less developed economies (thereby increasing transport and transfer of capital and technology), and to have immigrants from low labour-cost countries doing the dirty and physically demanding jobs in the developed economies, sometimes under questionable conditions. This increases the pressure on the labour market in the host countries, especially for the less qualified. Immigrants generally have a higher unemployment rate. This is not only due to education, but also the non-recognition of migrants’ qualifications and skills, language problems, and discrimination,[11]

Comparing the main sectors: agriculture, industry and service, Eurostat notes that the service sector is the largest sector in the EU-27. The proportion of workers in the services sectors increased from 63.0% (of the total workforce) in 1997 to 72.8% in 2012. For women, the increase was from 76.8% to 84.6%.The proportion of workers employed in the industrial and agricultural sectors decreased over the same period.[12] [8]

More than 99% of European businesses are small and medium sized enterprises, SMEs. They provide two thirds of jobs in the private sector, and contribute more than half of the value-added by businesses in the EU-27.[6]

Occupations

Occupations are classified internationally by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).[13] The 1988 system was adapted in 2008. Table 2 compares the two versions (first and second of the four ISCO levels).

Table 3: Comparison of International Standard Classification of Occupations, ISCO versions

ISCO-88 (COM)

Code and economic activity

ISCO-08

Code and economic activity

10 Legislators, senior officials and managers

11 Legislators and senior officials
12 Corporate managers
13 General managers

1 Managers

11 Chief executives, senior officials and legislators
12 Administrative and commercial managers
13 Production and specialized services managers
14 Hospitality, retail and other services managers

20 Professionals

21 Physical, mathematical and engineering science professionals
22 Life science and health professionals
23 Teaching professionals
24 Other professionals

2 Professionals

21 Science and engineering professionals
22 Health professionals
23 Teaching professionals
24 Business and administration professionals
25 Information and communications technology professionals
26 Legal, social and cultural professionals

30 Technicians and associate professionals

31 Physical and engineering science associate professionals
32 Life science and health associate professionals
33 Teaching associate professionals
34 Other associate professionals

3 Technicians and associate professionals

31 Science and engineering associate professionals
32 Health associate professionals
33 Business and administration associate professionals
34 Legal, social, cultural and related associate professionals
35 Information and communications technicians

40 Clerks

41 Office clerks
42 Customer service clerks

4 Clerical support workers

41 General and keyboard clerks
42 Customer services clerks
43 Numerical and material recording clerks
44 Other clerical support workers

50 Service workers and shop and market sales workers without specification

51 Personal and protective services workers
52 Models, salespersons and demonstrators

5 Service and sales workers

51 Personal service workers
52 Sales workers
53 Personal care workers
54 Protective services workers

60 Skilled agricultural and fishery workers

61 Skilled agricultural and fishery workers

6 Skilled agricultural, forestry and fishery workers

61 Market-oriented skilled agricultural workers
62 Market-oriented skilled forestry, fishing and hunting workers
63 Subsistence farmers, fishers, hunters and gatherers

70 Craft and related trades workers

71 Extraction and building trades workers
72 Metal, machinery and related trades workers
73 Precision, handicraft, printing and related trades workers
74 Other craft and related trades workers

7 Craft and related trades workers

71 Building and related trades workers, excluding electricians
72 Metal, machinery and related trades workers
73 Handicraft and printing workers
74 Electrical and electronic trades workers
75 Food processing, wood working, garment and other craft and related trades workers

80 Plant and machine operators and assemblers

81 Stationary-plant and related operators
82 Machine operators and assemblers
83 Drivers and mobile-plant operators

8 Plant and machine operators, and assemblers

81 Stationary plant and machine operators
82 Assemblers
83 Drivers and mobile plant operators

90 Elementary occupations

91 Sales and services elementary occupations
92 Agricultural, fishery and related labourers
93 Labourers in mining, construction, manufacturing and transport

9 Elementary occupations

91 Cleaners and helpers
92 Agricultural, forestry and fishery labourers
93 Labourers in mining, construction, manufacturing and transport
94 Food preparation assistants
95 Street and related sales and service workers
96 Refuse workers and other elementary workers

00 Armed forces

01 Armed forces

0 Armed forces occupations

01 Commissioned armed forces officers
02 Non-commissioned armed forces officers
03 Armed forces occupations, other ranks

Source: Compiled by the author, based on [7] [13]

As can be seen in the above table, the revisions made to the occupational classifications on the first level are not as extensive as those made to the NACE codes, and consequently, OSH statistical data is less affected. There is a similarity between the occupational trends and those described in the sector analysis. Between 1999 and 2007, there was a slight decrease in the proportion of craft and related trades workers, skilled agricultural and fishery workers, and clerks, whereas there were increases (of 1% and more) in: elementary occupations, legislators, senior officials and managers, professionals, service workers and shop/market sales, technicians, and associate professionals. The occupations that remained stable were the armed forces, plant and machine operators, and assemblers. [12]

Common trends identified include [14] [12] :

  • An increasing number of Migrant workers
  • An ageing population
  • A growth in the healthcare sector, service communications, and transport sectors
  • More women at work
  • A workforce that has become more mobile
  • Frequent periods of unemployment amongst the less qualified
  • The shift to developing countries as ‘extended workbench’ - suitable for inexpensive labour (textiles) and ‘dirty work’ (electroplating, foundry, waste handling)
  • An increase in temporary work, contract work, part time work, self-employment, and fragmentation
  • An increase in work intensity
  • Repeated organisational restructuring.

Sectors and occupations in relation to accidents and work-related diseases

The information in this article is largely based on the following studies:

  • Eurostat, Health and safety at work in Europe (1999-2007) – A statistical portrait, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2010.[12] The study covers the EU-27.
  • European Commission, Causes and circumstances of accidents at work in the EU, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, F4 unit, Luxembourg, 2009.[7] The study uses ESAW (European Statistics on Accidents at Work) data 1995-2005 and covers mainly EU-15.
  • Eurostat, Statistical analysis of socio-economic costs of accidents at work in the European Union, 2004.[15] This study focuses on accidents and costs, and mainly covers the EU-15.
  • Eurostat, Work and health in the European Union - A statistical portrait based on statistical data collected over the period 1994-2002, 2004.[16] It mainly covers the EU-15.
  • European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Issue 401: Monitoring the State of Occupational Safety and Health in the European Union – Pilot Study, 2000.[17] This qualitative study is based on a survey of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) among experts of the national Focal Points. It mainly covers the EU-15.

It should be noted that the statistics presented in the following chapters only show the first level of the NACE codes. However, at the more detailed levels, figures may deviate considerably from the average.


Fatal accidents

According to European Statistics on Accidents at Work (ESAW), 5,580 workers in the EU-27 died in 2007 as a result of fatal accidents in the workplace.[12] A fatal accident is defined as an accident that leads to the death of the victim within one year.[12] In 2000, Eurostat reported that fatal accidents at work had fallen from 6,423 in 1994 to 5,549 in 1996 [11]. From 1999 to 2007 the number of fatal accidents in the EU-15 fell from 5,275 to 3,780.[12]

In 2001 there were about 4,900 fatal accidents at work.[15] The sectors that were most seriously affected are listed in the following table:

Table 4: Ranking of fatal accidents per sector

Source
EU-OSHA study 2000 Eurostat statistical portrait, 2004 EC, causes of accidents, 2009* Eurostat statistical portrait, 2010
1. Construction 1. Agriculture, hunting and forestry 1. Fishing (NACE B) 1. Agriculture
2. Agriculture, hunting and related service activities 2. Construction 2. Mining and quarrying (mines, quarries, extraction of natural gas and oil) (NACE C) 2. Manufacturing
3. Land transport; transport via pipelines 3. Transport and communications 3. Agriculture, hunting and forestry (NACE A) 3. Construction
4. Fishing, operation of fish hatcheries and fish farms; service activities incidental to fishing 4. Electricity, gas and water supply 4. Construction (NACE F) 4. Transport
5. Other mining and quarrying 5. Manufacturing 5. Transport, storage and communication (NACE I)
6. Manufacture of fabricated metal products, except machinery and equipment 6. Manufacturing (NACE D)
7. Forestry, logging and related service activities

(*) Listed acc. to incidence rate per 100,000 workers in 2005

Source: Overview by the author


Gender

Overall, 95% of fatal accidents at work occurred among men (2005). This reflects the relatively low proportion of women in the sectors with the highest numbers of fatal accidents.[12]

The EC presented the fatal accident figures for each sector (incidence rate per 100,000 workers) consecutively from 1995 to 2005.[7] All NACE sectors (A, D to K) showed a significant reduction in incidence rates; wholesale and retail repairs led the way with a reduction of 51.7%, followed by hotel and restaurants (50%), transport (44.5%), construction (40.5%), and manufacturing (38%), etc. The only incidence rate increase recorded was among the 18-24 age group (covering all aforementioned NACE sectors).

Table 5: Comparison of incidence rates per sectors

Industrial sector Incidence rate

[fatal accidents per 100,000 workers]

Change

1995-2005 [ % ]

1995 2005 2007
Agriculture, hunting and forestry 13.8 10.1 8.8 -27
  • Males
  • Females
18.6

2.4

13.9

1.9

12.2

1.7

-25

-21

Manufacturing 4.2 2.6 2.2 -38
  • Males
  • Females
5.0

0.6

3.5

0.4

2.9

0.3

-30

-33

Electricity, gas and water supply 4.4 3.5 2.2 21
  • Males
  • Females
5.3

-

4.3

-

2.9

-

-19

-

Construction 14.8 8.8 7.6 -41
  • Males
  • Females
15.5

0.9

9.5

0.4

8.2

0.5

-39

-56

Wholesale and retail, repairs 2.9 1.4 1.1 -52
  • Males
  • Females
4.4

0.5

2.4

0.3

2.0

0.2

-46

-40

Hotels and restaurants 1.8 0.9 0.8 -50
  • Males
  • Females
3.1

0.6

1.6

0.4

1.5

0.2

-48

-33

Transport, storage and communication 13.7 7.6 6.2 -45
  • Males
  • Females
15.3

1.2

10.0

0.9

8.0

1.0

-35

-25

Financial intermediation, real estate,

renting and business activities

1.8 1.3 1.0 -28
  • Males
  • Females
2.9

0.4

2.2

0.2

1.7

0.2

-24

-50

Source: Adapted from ESAW[7] and Eurostat[18]

A more detailed analysis of the data, however, shows a high rate of variability, as indicated by the following example in table 6. This variability in the more specific data is also relevant for the other sectors.

Table 6: Breakdown of fatal accidents in the construction sector, according to company size

Total From 1 to 9 workers From 10 to 49 workers From 50 to 249 workers From 250 to 499 workers 250 workers or more 500 workers or more
1998 12,8 18,0 13,1 8,3  : 6,6  :
2005 8,8 10,9 8,5 8,4  : 5,5  :
2007 7,5 9,1 7,1 7,3 9,3 6,7 5,8

Source: Eurostat[19]

Regarding occupations related to accidents, Eurostat gives the following breakdown[7], based on 2005 data:

  • Around 75% of fatal accidents and 68% of non-fatal accidents occurred among ‘craft and related trades workers’, ‘machine operators’, or workers employed in an ‘elementary occupation’.
  • Concerning fatal accidents, 78.0% of victims in the sector of ‘transport, storage and communication’ were ‘plant and machine operators and assemblers’, representing 29.1% of fatal accidents at work for all NACE branches.
  • In construction’, 61.9% of victims were ‘craft and related trades workers’, representing 30.8% of all NACE branches.
  • 2.9% of fatal accidents at highest NACE level occurred among ‘service workers and shop and market sales workers’, accounting for 45.5% of cases in ‘hotels and restaurants'.[7]

Many fatal accidents occur in smaller companies, although this is sector-dependent. The age group ‘55-64 years’ is most likely to have a fatal accident.[7]

The German accident insurer BG ETEM, which specialises in insurance for the engineering and technical sectors) reported that their customers in the electricity sector had 491 accidents in 2004, six of which were fatal. BG ETEM considers this ratio too high, especially when compared with usual work accidents.[20]

Non-fatal accidents

An accident at work is defined as “a discrete occurrence in the course of work which leads to physical or mental harm”.[16] This includes cases of acute poisoning and wilful acts by other persons, as well as accidents occurring during work but off the company’s premises, even those caused by third parties. It excludes deliberate self-inflicted injuries, accidents on the way to and from work (commuting accidents), accidents having only a medical origin and occupational diseases. The phrase “in the course of work” means whilst engaged in an occupational activity or during the time spent at work. This includes cases of road traffic accidents in the course of work.[12]

According to the LFS (Labour Force Survey) ad hoc module dated 2007, 3.2% of workers in the EU-27 between the age of 15-64 years who worked or had worked during the past year had had one or more accidents at work in the past 12 months. This percentage corresponds to 6.9 million persons in the EU-27. Data from the ESAW showed that in 2007 2.9% of workers had an accident at work with more than three days of sickness absence, and that the occurrence of non-fatal accidents with more than three days of sick leave decreased from 3.4% in 1999 to 2.5% in 2007.[12] It should be noted that LFS considers all accidents irrespective of resulting absence from work, whereas ESAW considers only accidents with more than three days absence from work (and fatal accidents).

In the above mentioned survey by EU-OSHA, a number of the member states’ focal points recognised that the number of accidents at work is subject to a degree of under reporting. However, primarily accidents with a less serious consequence tend not to be reported.[17]

Sectors most affected by non-fatal accidents, in descending order, according to LFS ad hoc module 2007[12]:

  • Hotels and restaurants
  • Agriculture, hunting and forestry
  • Health and social work
  • Manufacturing
  • Transport, storage and communication
  • Construction
  • Public administration and defence, compulsory social security
  • Wholesale retail trade, repair

The following list, identified in the ESAW 2007 data (EU-15 without Greece), shows sectors most affected by accidents at work with more than three days absence[12]:

  • Mining and quarrying (10.0%)
  • Construction (51%)
  • Fishing (4.1%)
  • Agriculture (3.9%)

The least affected sectors were:

  • Financial intermediation (<1%)
  • Real estate, renting and business activities (1.7%)
  • Electricity, gas and water supply (1.7%)

Comparing data from the LFS ad hoc module 2007 and the ESAW 2009, the sectors with the highest rates of accidents that result in three or less days absent from work are hotels and restaurants, transport (see articles on rail, air and water transport), storage, communication, public administration, and defence; compulsory social security.

The 2005 DG Employment study[7] identified that “For non-fatal accidents at work, the distribution by sector was less concentrated (as opposed to fatal accidents). The sectors of 'manufacturing', 'construction', 'trade' and 'health and social work' accounted for 66% of all accidents.”

Gender It was also noted in the 2005 DG Employment study that around 24% of all non-fatal accidents occurred among women. In sectors with a high proportion of female workers, e.g. 'health and social work', just over half of non-fatal accidents occurred among women (56%).

The EC also presented the non-fatal accident figures (incidence rate per 100,000 workers) per sector consecutively from 1995 to 2005.[7] Many of the presented NACE sectors (A, D to K) had significant incidence rate reductions, with transport leading the way with a reduction of 36.2%, followed by construction (33.2%), manufacturing (29.4%), and agriculture (25.2%), etc. The only increase was recorded for the ‘electricity, gas and water supply’ sector, where accident risks rose by 18.4%, with risks 2.4 times higher for women. The most exposed subsector within this sector was ‘collection, purification and distribution of water’, with accident risks 1.6 times higher now than ten years ago.[7]

Table 7: Comparison of incidence rates 1995 and 2005 per industrial sector

Industrial sector Incidence rate

[Non-fatal accidents per 100,000 workers]

Change

[%]

1995 2005
Agriculture, hunting and forestry 6,123 4,560 -25.5
  • Males
  • Females
7,097

4,141

5,255

3,077

-26.0

-25.7

Manufacturing 4,962 3,505 -29.4
  • Males
  • Females
6,067

2,183

4,156

1,827

-31.5

-16.3

Electricity, gas and water supply 1,545 1,830 18.4
  • Males
  • Females
1,883

305

2,127

725

13.0

137.7

Construction 9,080 6,069 -33.2
  • Males
  • Females
10,002

2,505

6,519

1,073

-34.8

-57.2

Wholesale and retail, repairs 2,523 2,184 -13.4
  • Males
  • Females
3,541

1,350

2,904

1,411

-18.0

4.5

Hotels and restaurants 3,645 2,943 -19.3
  • Males
  • Females
4,255

3,265

3,303

2,653

-22.4

-18.7

Transport, storage and communication 5,790 3,696 -36.2
  • Males
  • Females
7,125

2,128

4,369

1,792

-38.7

-15.8

Financial intermediation, real estate,

renting and business activities

1,627 1,439 -11.6
  • Males
  • Females
1,848

969

1,925

897

4.2

-7.4

Source: Adapted from ESAW[7]

Besides the reverse trend already noted in the ‘electricity, gas and water supply’ sector, rates also increased for females in the wholesale and retail repairs sector, and for males in financial intermediation, real estate, renting and business activities.

In 2004, Eurostat published an analysis of costs due to accidents, stating that “Accidents at work were estimated to have caused costs of 55 billion Euros in EU15 in 2000. Most of these costs (88%) were due to lost working time (labour cost). However, one must bear in mind that for accidents with permanent incapacity to work and fatal accidents at work, the questionnaire information did not allow estimation of costs other than those resulting from lost working time. From all economic activities, most costs were caused in manufacturing and construction, which also accounted for the largest number of accidents at work.”[15]

Occupational diseases

The recognition of an occupational disease means the occupational origin has been approved by the national compensation authorities. This depends on the national legislation and compensation practice, which typically restricts the compensation to cases for which the occupational factor is the only or most important cause.

The highest proportion of occupational diseases was found in the following sectors[12]:

  • Manufacturing (38%)
  • Construction (13%)
  • Wholesale retail trade, repair (7%)
  • Health and social work (5%)

Occupational diseases among men were mostly associated with the ‘manufacturing’ and ‘construction’ sectors, whereas, for women, it was with ‘wholesale retail trade, repair’, and ‘health and social work’. The ranking in the occurrence of occupational diseases across sectors remains stable, apart from in the ‘manufacturing’ sector, which appeared to have decreased whilst the number of diseases in the other three sectors appears to have increased.[12]

More than 80% of the occupational diseases occurred in the following professions:

  • Workers in craft and related trades (41%)
  • Plant, machine operators, assemblers (21%)
  • Workers with elementary occupations (19%).

This ranking of professions appeared to be stable between 2001 and 2007.[12]

The following ranking of occupation categories (ISCO code) was identified by EU-OSHA in a qualitative survey at their national focal points in 2000[17]:

  • Metal, machinery and related trades workers
  • Labourers in mining, construction, manufacturing and transport
  • Machine operators and assemblers
  • Extraction and building trades workers
  • Drivers and mobile plant operators
  • Personal and protective services workers
  • Other craft and related trades workers

The European Occupational Diseases Statistics (EODS) recorded the highest occurrence of recognized and newly recorded occupational diseases for the following diagnostic groups: musculoskeletal diseases, neurologic diseases, lung diseases, diseases of the sensory organs, and skin diseases.[12]

As noted above, EU-OSHA identified ‘Personal and protective services workers’ as an occupational category of concern. Included within this ISCO classification are some emergency service workers such as police and firefighters (ambulance workers may be separately classified either as ‘drivers’ or ‘paramedical workers’ - although they can be subjected to many of the same risks to health and safety as their counterparts in the other emergency services).

Work-related ill-health

According to a Eurostat publication, the concept of a work-related disease includes all cases of disease where an occupational factor played some role. The concept of a work-aggravated disease includes all cases of disease which are made worse by work, whatever the original cause of the disease.[15]

In the LFS ad hoc module 2007, persons aged 15 to 64 years who work or worked previously were asked whether they suffered in the past 12 months from one or more health problems caused or made worse by work. In total, 8.6% of the respondents in the EU27 had a work-related health problem. This corresponds to approximately 23 million people in the EU27.[12]

Whereas accident statistics show a downward trend, the proportion of people with a work-related health problem increased from 4.7% in 1999 to 7.1% in 2007, according to the LFS ad hoc modules.[12]

Regarding the type of work-related health problems, the EU LFS ad hoc module 2007 ranks the respondents according to their most serious work-related health problems[12]:

The following sectors were most affected[12]:

  • Agriculture, hunting and forestry
  • Mining and quarrying
  • Health and social work
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Education
  • Transport, storage and communication
  • Public administration and defence; compulsory social security
  • Electricity, gas and water supply
  • Wholesale retail trade, repair
  • Hotels and restaurants

EU-OSHA states in a qualitative survey at their national focal points in 2000[17] that 23% of workers interviewed reported being absent from work due to occupational sickness. The occupation categories (ISCO code) were given as:

  • Labourers in mining, construction, manufacturing and transport
  • Agricultural, fishery and related labourers
  • Drivers and mobile plant operators
  • Precision, handicraft, craft printing and related trades workers
  • Extraction and building trades workers
  • Personal and protective services workers
  • Teaching professionals
  • Life science and health professionals
Consequences

During a 2009 presentation, Takala and Schneider from EU-OSHA stated that approx. 167,000 work-related deaths occur annually in the EU-27, a figure based on Finnish and EU-OSHA research and ILO estimates[14], and including accidents and violence (5%). Of the 160,000 deaths, almost 74,000 can be attributed to dangerous substances. An estimated 350 million working days were lost annually in the EU due to health problems. Based on the results of the EWCS, a very similar estimate of 340 million days lost was calculated for self-reported sickness absence due to non-accidental health problems caused by work in 2000.[16]

Eurostat presented the results from the LFS 2007 ad hoc module in a 2009 press release [21]:

  • 3.2% of workers in the EU-27 had an accident at work during a one year period, which corresponds to almost 7 million workers.
  • 8.6% of workers in the EU-27 experienced a work-related health problem in the past 12 months, which corresponds to 20 million people

This indicates that work-related, non-accidental health problems may cause almost three times more temporary and permanent incapacity compared to accidents at work.


Musculoskeletal problems

The term musculoskeletal disorder denotes health problems of the locomotor apparatus, i.e. muscles, tendons, skeleton, cartilage, the vascular system, ligaments and nerves. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) include all musculoskeletal disorders that are induced or aggravated by work and the circumstances of its performance.[12]

The LFS ad hoc module 2007 showed that 8.6% of the respondents had a work-related health problem, corresponding to approximately 23 million people in the EU 27. Of these, 61% stated that musculoskeletal problems (bone, joint or muscle) were their main work-related health problem.

In the LFS ad hoc module 2007, 17% of workers reported exposure to difficult work postures, work movements, or handling of heavy loads as the main risk factor affecting their physical health. This was followed by exposure to the risk of an accident (10%), exposure to chemicals, dusts, fumes, smoke, or gases (8%), and exposure to noise or vibration (5%).[12]

The proportion of musculoskeletal problems related to sectors, according to the LFS ad hoc module 2007 (EU 27), (in descending order)[12]:

  • Construction
  • Wholesale retail trade, repair
  • Hotels and restaurants
  • Other community, social and personal service activities
  • Transport, storage and communication
  • Manufacturing
  • Health and social work
  • Real estate, renting and business activities
  • Public administration and defence; compulsory social security
  • Financial intermediation
  • Education

When comparing data from 1999 and 2007 (9 countries), it was found that the proportion of musculoskeletal problems had increased in all sectors[12], despite technological developments aimed at reducing the manual lifting of heavy loads. Repetition and monotony, combined with working conditions such as low individual control of the work and high work-pace, can also lead to an increase in the risk of musculoskeletal disorders.[17]

The following occupation categories (ISCO code) were identified by EU-OSHA in a survey of their national focal points in 2000[17]:

  • Labourers in mining, construction, manufacturing and transport
  • Extraction and building trades workers
  • Sales and services elementary occupations
  • Metal, machinery and related trades workers
  • Agricultural, fishery and related labourers
  • Skilled agricultural and fishery workers.

Musculoskeletal health problems contributed importantly to work-related health problems in small firms (less than 10 persons) and larger ones, according to both the LFS ad hoc module 2007 and the EWCS 2005, occurring slightly more often in small firms [7].


Consequences

Besides the serious consequences for the individuals affected (about 20% of those with musculoskeletal problems faced considerable limitations), about 60% of all short term (< 1 month) and long term (at least 1 month) sickness absence in the EU27 can be attributed to musculoskeletal problems.[12]

As stated in a previous EU-OSHA report[22], the true extent of MSDs costs within the workplace across Member States is difficult to assess and compare. This may be due to the organisation of insurance systems, the lack of standardised assessment criteria and the fact that little is known of the validity of reported data. The report nevertheless states that certain studies have estimated the cost of work-related upper-limb musculoskeletal disorders (WRULD) at between 0.5% and 2% of Gross National Product (GNP). More recent figures, for example from Austria, Germany or France, demonstrate an increasing impact of musculoskeletal disorders on costs. In France, for example, in 2006, MSDs led to 7m workdays lost, and about 710 million EUR of enterprises’ contributions.[23]

Recognized occupational musculoskeletal diseases

With regard to musculoskeletal diseases, the European Schedule of Occupational Diseases includes specific conditions linked to vibration, local pressure and overuse of tendons, peritendonous tissues, and of tendon insertions. Disorders of the lower back and neck and shoulder region are accepted as occupational diseases by only a few Member States and only for specific forms of disease. It is, therefore, difficult to collect comprehensive European level data on recognised occupational musculoskeletal disorders. According to the 2001 EODS data collection with 12 Member States providing data on recognised cases of occupational diseases, the most common musculoskeletal occupational diseases were tenosynovitis of the hand or wrist (5,379 cases) and epicondylitis of the elbow (4,585 cases). In addition, there were 2,483 cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, a neurological disease of the wrist. If extrapolated to EU-15 in the ratio of the workforce of EU-15 and the participating countries, there would be around 8,900 cases of tenosynovitis, 7,600 cases of epicondylitis and 4,100 cases of carpal tunnel syndrome recognised in the EU-15.[16] However, these are new cases annually, so the total number is much higher. Differing policies in the member states also distort the full picture of these diseases.


Psychosocial health problems

According to the LFS ad hoc module 2007, 14% of workers with a work-related health problem experienced stress, depression or anxiety as the main health problem. After musculoskeletal health problems, psychosocial health problems were the second most frequently reported work-related health problem.[12]

In the LFS ad hoc module 2007, stress, depression or anxiety was highest in these sectors[12]:

  • Education (27%)
  • Financial intermediation (25%)
  • Public administration and defence (24%)
  • Real estate, renting and business activities (22%).

In the EWCS 2005, the occurrence of stress and anxiety was also high in the sectors ‘education’ and ‘health and social work’.[12]

Although it does not feaure in this sectorial list, it is widely recognised that the agriculture sector has particular psychosocial issues reflecting the numerous challenges of work in the sector.

In a qualitative survey at their national focal points in 2000, EU-OSHA identified the following occupation categories (ISCO code) as having the most sufferers of stress[17]:

  • Life science and health professionals
  • Teaching professionals
  • Corporate managers
  • Labourers in mining, construction, manufacturing and transport
  • Managers of small enterprises

According to Eurostat (2004), 28% of workers say that their work affects their health in the form of stress; 10% are affected by irritability and 7% by anxiety.[16]

The 2000 qualitative survey by EU-OSHA ranked sectors and occupations according to high speed work, work-pace dictated by social demand, and machine dictated work-pace[17]:

Table 8: 2000 survey results on sectors and occupations ranking according to high speed work, work-pace dictated by social demand, and machine dictated work-pace

High speed work
Sectors most at risk Occupation categories (ISCO code)
  • Hotels and restaurants
  • Post and telecommunications
  • Land transport; transport via pipelines
  • Construction
  • Financial Intermediation, except insurance and pension funding
  • Manufacture of wearing apparel; dressing and dyeing of fur
  • Manufacture of food products and beverages
  • Manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers
  • Manufacture of office, accounting and computing machinery
  • Publishing, printing and reproduction of recorded media.
  • Corporate managers
  • Customer services clerks
  • Drivers and mobile plant operators
  • Metal, machinery and related trades workers.
Work-pace dictated by social demand
Sectors most at risk Occupation categories (ISCO code)
  • Hotels and restaurants
  • Health and social work
  • Retail trade, except of motor vehicles and motorcycles; repair of personal and household goods
  • Public administration and defence; compulsory social security
  • Other service activities.
  • Customer services clerks
  • Personal and protective services workers
  • Life science and health associate professionals
  • Life science and health professionals
  • Models, salespersons and demonstrators.
Machine dictated work pace
Sectors most at risk Occupation categories (ISCO code)
  • Manufacture of textiles
  • Manufacture of food products and beverages
  • Manufacture of fabricated metal products, except machinery and equipment
  • Manufacture of basic metals
  • Manufacture of rubber and plastic products

Manufacture of wearing apparel; dressing and dyeing of fur.

  • Machine operators and assemblers
  • Labourers in mining, construction, manufacturing and transport
  • Drivers and mobile plant operators
  • Stationary-plant and related operators.

Source: Compiled by author, adapted from[17]

Although not featuring in relation to any of these ranking some other sectors (e.g. Agriculture) have particular sources of psychosocial problems such as long working hours, isolation, financial uncertainty etc, which can lead to poor health and wellbeing. 

Consequences

The EU-OSHA 2000 survey lists: “fatigue, anxiety, sweating panic attacks and tremors as potential symptoms of excessive stress as well as difficulty in relaxing, loss of concentration, impaired appetite and disrupted sleep patterns.” EU-OSHA notes that some people become depressed or aggressive and stress increases susceptibility to ulcers, mental ill health, heart disease and some skin disorders.[17] A UK study found that work stress can directly or indirectly lead to coronary heart disease.[24] In general, stress may lead to accidents, errors, irritability, anxiety, sleep problems, drug abuse, back problems, weakened immunity, peptic ulcers, heart problems, and hypertension.[25]

In the LFS ad hoc module 2007, 44% of those reporting this health problem had some limitations in their ability to function at work, while 24% were considerably limited. Sick leave due to stress, depression or anxiety (as the main work-related health problem) occurred in 59% of the persons. Long term sick leave (at least one month) occurred more often than short term sick leave (< 1 month) (32% versus 27%). According to an expert, this can be attributed to the fact that it is more difficult to find short term therapy facilities. Those with stress, depression or anxiety as the main work-related health problem were more likely to require long term sick leave than persons with musculoskeletal problems (32% versus 26%).[12]


Recognised occupational psychosocial health problems

Because of a lack of knowledge of the mechanisms of work-related psychosocial disorders, they are rarely included in the national systems for reporting and compensating occupational diseases. As a first step to overcome these problems, in 2000, a methodological survey was conducted in the EU-15 to collect metadata and plan statistical data collection on occupational diseases.[16] A 2013 Eurogip study found that specific psychosocial health problems are recognised as occupational diseases in only six European countries. Regarding recognition as accidents at work, the procedure is easier in all the countries covered by the study (Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland). It is generally limited to a precise type of risk exposure, such as a sudden, traumatising event, e.g. assaults, an accident, or accidents of colleagues).[26]

In the same study, Eurogip looked into the issue of work-related suicides. They noted that, in most countries, suicide can be covered by the occupational risk insurance system. However, the legal approaches and arguments in support of possible recognition vary greatly from one country to another. Recognition is often due to a legal ruling, and is imposed on the insurance organisation which had initially rejected the claim.[26]


Respiratory and skin problems

In the LFS ad hoc module 2007, 5.2% of the persons with a work-related health problem that work or worked previously reported breathing or lung problems as the main work-related health problem. The EWCS 2005 showed that 4.7% of the persons that reported their work affect their health experienced breathing difficulties.[12]

The same source notes that skin problems were reported as the main work-related health problem in 1.3% of cases. This was supported by the EWCS 2005, which found that 6.6% of workers experience skin problems.[12] See also: Occupational irritants.

In the LFS ad hoc module 2007, the main reported risk factor (17%) affecting the physical health of workers was exposure to difficult work postures, work movements or handling of heavy loads. This was followed by exposure to risk of accident (10%), exposure to chemicals, dusts, fumes, smoke, or gases (8%), and exposure to noise or vibration (5%).[12]

Older sources show similar figures: About 6% of workers consider their work affects their health in the form of skin problems, 4% in the form of respiratory difficulties, and 4% in the form of allergies.[16]

For all these health risks, the prevalence is highest in agriculture, construction, manufacturing and health and social work; it is lowest in financial intermediation and education. The risk is nearly ten times greater in the highest sector compared to the lowest.[16]

The different sectors are distributed as follows (in descending order): Skin problems[12]:

  1. Mining and quarrying
  2. Manufacturing
  3. Construction
  4. Health and social work.

Skin problems[16]:

  1. Agriculture and fishing
  2. Health and social work
  3. Construction
  4. Manufacturing and mining

Respiratory difficulties[16]:

  1. Construction
  2. Manufacturing and mining
  3. Electricity, gas and water supply
  4. Agriculture and fishing

Allergies[16]:

  1. Agriculture and fishing
  2. Health and social work
  3. Other services
  4. Construction
  5. Manufacturing and mining


Consequences

By way of example, in 2008, Reinhold Rühl from the German statutory accident insurance association for the construction sector (BG BAU) estimated the costs of occupational epoxy resin diseases in the EU at over 40Million Euro. This included costs for the accident insurance association, public authorities, and companies.[27]

According to the LFS ad hoc module 2007, a high proportion of workers with breathing or lung problems as the main work-related health problem (71%) experienced sickness absence in the past 12 months. In total, 45% had sickness absence of less than one month, and 26% had sickness absence of at least one month and more. Breathing or lung problems resulted more often in short term sick leave (< 1 month) as compared to musculoskeletal health problems (35%), and stress, depression or anxiety (27%). For absences of one month and more, the opposite was true.[12]

Recognized occupational respiratory and skin diseases

For 2001, Eurostat estimates about 10,000 respiratory and almost 8,000 skin diseases for the EU-15.[16]

EU-OSHA states in a 2009 press release: “It is estimated that chemicals are responsible for 80-90% of skin diseases, which rank second (13.6%) on the scale of occupational diseases, following musculoskeletal disorders.” [28]

For the recognised occupational diseases dermatitis and asthma, Eurostat gives a breakdown regarding the most affected sectors, according to the incidence rates (EU-12 in 2001)[16]:

Dermatitis:

  1. Mining and quarrying
  2. Construction
  3. Manufacturing
  4. Other community, social, personal service activities
  5. Hotels and restaurants
  6. Agriculture, hunting and forestry
  7. Health and social work

Asthma (almost all sectors are heavily affected):

  1. Agriculture, hunting and forestry
  2. Manufacturing
  3. Other community, social, personal service activities
  4. Mining and quarrying
  5. Construction
  6. Wholesale and retail trade
  7. Hotels and restaurants

Cardiovascular disorders

The most important risk factors associated with cardiovascular disorders are non-occupational. However, shift work and stress-related factors have been found to increase the risk of ischaemic heart disease. Moreover, long-term exposure to vibration is a well-established risk factor of peripheral circulation impairment in the hands (so-called vibration white-finger).

Only 1% of European workers consider their work affects their health in the form of heart disease. The prevalence of such risk is low, between 0.5 and 1.7 %, in all sectors of economic activity. According to the ad hoc module of the 1999 LFS, less than 0.2% of respondents suffered from a cardiovascular health problem, which, according to their own judgement, was caused or made worse by work. This extrapolates to about 320,000 European workers (current or past) having such cardiovascular health problems. Based on scientific evidence, the above-mentioned work-related risk factors could contribute much more to cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. It is probably more difficult for workers to recognise the link between work-related exposure and cardiovascular diseases than to recognise the work-related risks of musculoskeletal, respiratory or skin disease. [16]

The occupation of driving is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.[29]


Violence and intimidation

Physical violence

According to the 2007 LFS ad hoc module, 27.9% of EU27 workers reported exposure to factors in the workplace, which affected their mental well-being, corresponding to 55.6 million workers. Time pressure or work-overload was most often selected as the main risk factor (23%), followed by harassment or bullying (2.7%), and violence or threat of violence (2.2%).[12]

In addition to physical violence from people working at the same workplace, it is more common to be subjected to violence from other people (clients, pupils, etc.). 4.5% of women and 3.5% of men report having been subject to such violence over the past 12 months. The rate is obviously higher in sectors where contact with outsiders is common [16]:

Workers subjected to physical violence at work from outsiders, EU-15, 2000[16]:

  • Health and social work (ca. 13 % of workers)
  • Public administration and defence (ca. 8%)
  • Hotels and restaurants (ca. 6.5%)
  • Transport and communications (ca. 5 %)
  • Education (ca. 4.8%)
  • Other services (ca. 4.3%)
  • Wholesale and retail trade (ca. 3.5%).


Workers subjected to physical violence at work from people within the workplace, EU-15, 2000[16]:

  • Health and social work (ca. 5.4 % of workers)
  • Transport and communications (ca. 2.3 %)
  • Education (ca. 2.2%)
  • Construction (ca. 1.5%)
  • Other services (ca. 1.4%)
  • Public administration and defence (ca. 1.2%)
  • Hotels and restaurants (ca. 1.1%)
  • Wholesale and retail trade (ca. 0.6%).

In addition to the above rates, the threat of violence is felt by even more workers. 4% are aware of the existence of violence from people at their workplace and 8% are aware of the existence of violence from outsiders.[16]

The EU-OSHA survey conducted at national focal points in 2000[17] found the following sectors had the greatest risk of physical violence:

  • Health and social work
  • Public administration and defence; compulsory social security
  • Land transport; transport via pipelines
  • Hotels and restaurants
  • Retail trade, except of motor vehicles and motorcycles; repair of personal and household goods
  • Other service activities

Occupation categories (ISCO code), as above

  • Personal and protective services workers
  • Life science and health associate professionals
  • Sales and services elementary occupations
  • Life science and health professionals
  • Customer services clerks
  • Models, sales persons and demonstrators

It was reported in several national studies that female employees were considered more exposed to physical violence and threats of violence in the workplace.[17]

Intimidation

The qualitative survey of EU-OSHA among experts at their national focal points in 2000 [17] lists the following sectors as being most at risk regarding bullying and victimisation:

  • Health and social work
  • Hotels and restaurants
  • Education
  • Public administration and defence; compulsory social security
  • Financial intermediation, except insurance and pension funding
  • Manufacture of chemicals and chemical products

Occupation categories (ISCO code), as above:

  • Sales and services elementary occupations
  • Personal and protective services workers
  • Customer services clerks
  • Labourers in mining, construction, manufacturing and transport
  • Other craft and related trades workers
  • Models, sales persons and demonstrators
  • Teaching professionals
  • Life science and health professionals

Eurostat published data in 2004 indicating that over the past 12 months, 10.2% of women and 7.3% of men have been subject to intimidation at work. The rate of intimidation is highest in health and social work (15.7%), followed by public administration, hotels and restaurants and transportation. Worker age category or company size seems to make no difference, except for the lower rate among those working alone.[16]

Workers subjected to intimidation at work, according to sectors, EU-15, 2000[16]:

  • Health and social work (ca. 15.5 % of workers)
  • Public administration and defence (ca. 14.5%)
  • Hotels and restaurants (ca. 12.3%)
  • Transport and communications (ca. 11.5 %)
  • Wholesale and retail trade (ca. 8.8%)
  • Other services (ca. 8.5%)
  • Education (ca. 8.5%)
  • Real estate activities etc. (ca. 7%).

According to the latest survey (EWCS 2010[30]), 6.7% of workers in industry as compared to 12.6 % in services reported to be subjected to verbal abuse, 2.9% in industry and 5.9% in services report exposure to threats or humiliating behaviour, 0.4% in industry and 2.5% in services report physical violence, and 3.8% in industry and 5.8% in services report bullying or harassment. Over half of the service workers (55.8%) as opposed to 17.2% in industry report that their work involves dealing directly with people such as customers, pupils, patients, etc, and 7.9% of the service workers as opposed to 2.6% in industry report that their job involves handling angry clients.

Overall, 5.4 % workers in industry and 6.5% workers in services report discrimination at work.

Causes and circumstances of accidents and work related diseases in specific sectors

Accidents and diseases have a large number of established causes and circumstances that can be strongly related to specific sectors and occupations. For more details see the following OSH wiki articles:

As well as problems associated with specific sectors, various groups of workers can be identified as 'vulnerable', being potentially at more risk of occupationally-related ill-health or injury.


Legal aspects

As well as those relating to general health and safety or to specific hazards, the European Union has issued directives on health and safety in specific sectors, such as construction (Directive 92/57/EEC - temporary or mobile construction sites), mining (Directive 92/104/EEC - mineral-extracting industries, Directive 92/91/EEC - mineral-extracting industries - drilling), and fishing (Directive 93/103/EC - work on board fishing vessels, Directive 92/29/EEC - medical treatment on board vessels).


Preventive measures

Accidents

In its 2009 study on the causes and circumstances of accidents at work in the EU[7], the European Commission notes that ‘In light of the analysis, the following areas should be given particular consideration:

  • Falls on the same level
  • Falls from height
  • Machinery
  • Hand tools
  • Manual or mechanical handling
  • Occupational road risks
  • Psychosocial risk factors.’

The study then lists preventive measures that follow the STOP principle (i.e. hierarchy of measures). See also: Organisational measures of accident prevention, Accident prevention – workplace transport, Zero accident vision.

Work related ill-health

The technological development which has reduced the lifting of heavy loads did not bring about the expected decrease in the number of back disorder incidents. In an article published in 2009[31], Hartmann and Spallek argue that physical work can have a clear positive effect on physical health. They recommend that both demands that are too high and too low be avoided, and the aim should be for an individual optimum. This means that general preventive measures are not enough; individual measures that match workplaces are needed. Such concepts have been developed, e.g. “Moving with Awareness” (for cleaners) and “ERGO-PHYS”. See also: Strategies to tackle musculoskeletal disorders at work.

It is high time that psychosocial health problems were considered in risk assessments in companies and organisations. More campaigns are needed involving social partners and authorities to raise awareness. See also: Occupational safety and health risk assessment methodologies, Interventions to prevent and manage psychosocial risks and work-related stress.

Sector guidelines

European guidelines have been developed, often in tripartite efforts or in - social dialogue, namely:

  • The European framework agreement on the protection of occupational health and safety in the hairdressing sector
  • Occupational health and safety risks in the healthcare sector - Guide to prevention and good practice
  • Non-binding guide to good practice for understanding and implementing Directive 92/57/EEC on the implementation of minimum safety and health requirements at temporary or mobile construction sites
  • Framework agreement on prevention from sharp injuries in the hospital and healthcare
  • Non-binding guide for the agricultural sector

Occupational guidelines

OSH rules and guidelines for specific occupations have been developed, e.g. for cleaners (by employers’ associations and trade unions)[32] and the Council recommendation of 18 February 2003 concerning the improvement of the protection of the health and safety at work of self-employed workers.

Other guidance on prevention

A number of other OSHwiki pages provide advice and guidance on the prevention of accidents or ill-health in specific sectors and occupations. These include:

Discussion, outlook

Socio-economic trends in Europe can explain a number of OSH trends, as can be seen in the table below:

Table 9: Comparison of OSH trends and socio-economic trends

OSH trends Socio-economic trends Remarks
Decreasing fatal accidents

Exception 18-24 age average over all sectors

Globalisation leads to structural change that automatically improves accident statistics[14]

About 50% of the reduction in non-fatal injury rate since 1986 is due to changes in occupations[14]

“Extended workbench”: suitable work for inexpensive labour (e.g. textile) and “dirty work” (e.g. electroplating, foundry, waste handling…) is shifted to developing countries

Accidents at work occurring at night are also more often fatal than those during the daytime.

Workers doing shift work and /or night work have a 50-70% higher incidence of accidents at work.

Handling dangerous substances poses a direct risk of accidents at work

Decreasing non-fatal accidents

Exceptions: - electricity, gas, water supply, - females in the wholesale and retail repairs, - males in financial intermediation, real estate, renting and business activities

The ranking in the occurrence of (recognised) occupational diseases across sectors was stable over the years. This is probably due to the fact that adaptations of the system usually take a long time; therefore the psychosocial health problems are not yet visible in these statistics. Self-employed persons reported more health risks and took less health-related leave.[12]
Proportion of people with a work-related health problem increased from 4.7% in 1999 to 7.1% in 2007. Increasing relevance of healthcare, transport and service sectors (including communication, call centres, etc.) may imply fewer accidents but more effects of psychosocial factors and MSDs
Work contracts include increasing numbers of temporary work, contract work, part-time work, self-employment, fragmentation Increased outsourcing of labour may increase the risk of accidents and ill health
Increasing number of migrant workers Concentrated in high-risk sectors, doing often hazardous jobs.
Ageing population Workers >55 suffer most serious accidents, and most illnesses, such as occupational cancers
More women at work Traditionally under-researched and overlooked: emphasis on accidents and male-dominated sectors and occupations
Increasing numbers of MSD cases, both in SMEs and larger firms

Increasing numbers of psychosocial health problems

Workforce has become more mobile, resulting in less occupational health surveillance

Work intensity is increased[33]

Repeated restructuring

Less qualified are frequently unemployed

SMEs left behind Limited capacity to deal with more complicated OSH issues.

Could also be partly explained by less visits from labour inspection, and accident insurance in some European countries

Source: compiled by the author

In order to combat the increasing work related diseases, the focus should turn to address socio-economic trends such as:

  • Increased flexibility and work intensity
  • Restructuring and outsourcing
  • Unfavourable work contracts
  • Migrant labour force
  • Move from industry to service economy
  • Ageing workforce
  • Increasingly diverse workforce

In addition, SMEs need more guidance, e.g. internet-based tools, and assistance from labour inspectors and accident insurers.


References

  1. Work-related respiratory disease in Great Britain 2016: An overview of the burden of respiratory disease in Great Britain. London: HSE http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/respiratory-diseases.pdf
  2. Fatal injury statistics.  Summary for 2015/16. http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/fatals.htm
  3. Work-related ill health and occupational disease. http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/index.htm
  4. Eurostat, NACE Rev. 2 – Statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community, Methodologies and Working Papers, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2008. Available at: [1]
  5. Eurostat, Eurostat regional yearbook, Eurostat statistical books, Luxembourg, 2008.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Eurostat, Structural business statistics overview (2012). Retrieved 7 February 2013, from: [2]
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 European Commission, Causes and circumstances of accidents at work in the EU, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, F4 unit, Luxembourg, 2009. Available at: [3]
  8. 8.0 8.1 Eurostat (2013). Employment growth and activity branches - annual averages, 1995-2007, last update 11 April 2013, [lfsi_grt_a]. Retrieved 14 May 2013, from: [4]
  9. Eurostat (2013). National Accounts by 21 branches - employment data, 2000-2010, last update 13 May 2013, [nama_nace21_e]. Retrieved 14 May 2013, from: [5]
  10. Mohan, J.R., International Business, Oxford University Press, New Delhi and New York, 2009.
  11. Eurostat, Migrants in Europe - A statistical portrait of the first and second generation, Eurostat statistical books, Luxembourg, 2001. Available at: [6]
  12. 12.00 12.01 12.02 12.03 12.04 12.05 12.06 12.07 12.08 12.09 12.10 12.11 12.12 12.13 12.14 12.15 12.16 12.17 12.18 12.19 12.20 12.21 12.22 12.23 12.24 12.25 12.26 12.27 12.28 12.29 12.30 12.31 12.32 12.33 12.34 12.35 Eurostat, Health and safety at work in Europe (1999-2007) – A statistical portrait, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2010. Available at: [7]
  13. 13.0 13.1 ILO - International Labour Organisation, Resolution Concerning Updating the International Standard Classification of Occupations, 2008. Adopted at the Tripartite Meeting of Experts on Labour Statistics, 6 December 2007. Available at: [8]
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Takkala, J., Schneider, E., Safety and health at work: Trends and main factors of occupational accidents and work-related illnesses, 2009.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Eurostat, Statistical analysis of socio-economic costs of accidents at work in the European Union, 2004.
  16. 16.00 16.01 16.02 16.03 16.04 16.05 16.06 16.07 16.08 16.09 16.10 16.11 16.12 16.13 16.14 16.15 16.16 16.17 16.18 16.19 Eurostat, Work and health in the European Union - A statistical portrait based on statistical data collected over the period 1994-2002, 2004.
  17. 17.00 17.01 17.02 17.03 17.04 17.05 17.06 17.07 17.08 17.09 17.10 17.11 17.12 European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Issue 401: Monitoring the State of Occupational Safety and Health in the European Union – Pilot Study, 2000.
  18. Eurostat (2012). Standardised incidence rate of accidents at work by economic activity, severity and sex, last update 6 March 2012 [hsw_aw_inasx]. Retrieved 14 May 2013, from: [9]
  19. Eurostat (2012). Standardised incidence rate of accidents at work by economic activity and size of enterprise, last update 17 January 2012 [hsw_aw_inasz]. Retrieved 14 May 2013, from: [10]
  20. Jühling, J., Elektrounfälle in Deutschland, Institut zur Erforschung elektrischer Unfälle in der BGFE, Köln 2005.
  21. Eurostat, 8.6% of workers in the EU experienced work-related health problems - Results from the Labour Force Survey 2007 ad hoc module on accidents at work and work-related health problems, Statistics in focus 63/2009. Available at: [11]
  22. EU-OSHA - European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Work-related musculoskeletal disorders: Back to work, Bilbao, 2007. Available at: [12]
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  25. EU-OSHA - European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (no date). Stress - definition and symptoms. Retrieved 18 May 2013, from: [15]
  26. 26.0 26.1 Eurogip, What recognition of work-related mental disorders? A study on 10 European countries, Study report in collaboration with the European Forum of the Insurance against Accidents at Work and Occupational Diseases, February 2013. Available at: [16]
  27. Rühl, R., Wriedt, H., 'Some Economic Benefits of REACH', Annals of occupational hygiene, vol. 50, no 6, 2006, pp. 541-544.
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  29. Hirata, R.P., Sampaio, L.M.M., Filho, F.S.S.L., Braghiroli, A., Balbi, B., Romano, S., Insalaco, G., de Oliveira, L.V.F., 'General Characteristics and Risk Factors of Cardiovascular Disease among Interstate Bus Drivers', The Scientific World Journal, Volume 2012. Available at: [18]
  30. Eurofound (2013). European Working Conditions Survey – mapping the results. Retrieved 5 August 20113, from: [19]
  31. Hartmann, B., Spallek, M., 'Arbeitsbezogene Muskel-Skelett-Erkrankungen – Eine Gegenstandsbestimmung', Arbeitsmedizin Sozialmedizin Umwelt, Organ der wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaften für Arbeitsmedizin in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz sowie des Verbandes Deutscher Betriebs- und Werksärzte und der Akademien für Arbeits- und Sozialmedizin, Alfons W. Gentner Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Stuttgart, 44, 8, 2009, p. 429.
  32. Munar, S.L., Lebeer, G., Health & safety in the office cleaning sector – European manual for employees, Centre de Sociologie de la Santé of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and the Centre de Diffusion de la Culture Sanitaire a.s.b.l., project partners uni-Europa and EFCI.
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Links for further reading

EU-OSHA - European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (undated), Sectors. Retrieved 22 February 2013, from: [21]

EU-OSHA - European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, OSH in figures: Work-related musculoskeletal disorders in the EU - Facts and figures, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2010. Available at: [22]

EU-OSHA – The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Preventing harm to cleaning workers, Luxembourg, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2008. Available at: [23]

ILO (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety, ILO, Geneve, 2003. Available at: [24]

Eurofound, Areas of expertise (2010). Retrieved 22 February 2013, from [25]

European Commission, mission staff working document, accompanying document to the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Improving quality and productivity at work: community strategy 2007-2012 on health and safety at work - Impact assessment (COM(2007) 62 final).

Hämäläinen, P., Takala, J., Saarela, K., 'Global estimates of occupational accidents', Safety Science, 44, 2006, pp. 137-156.

OECD, Sickness, Disability and Work. Breaking the Barriers. A synthesis of findings across OECD countries, 2010.

OSH: OccupationsSectorsSectoral social dialogue
NACE: Crop and animal productionForestry and loggingFishing and aquacultureMining of coal and ligniteExtraction of crude petroleum and natural gasMining of metal oresOther mining and quarryingManufacture of food productsManufacture of beveragesManufacture of tobacco productsManufacture of textilesManufacture of wearing apparelManufacture of leather and related productsManufacture of wood and of products of wood and corkManufacture of paper and paper productsPrinting and reproduction of recorded mediaManufacture of coke and refined petroleum productsManufacture of chemicals and chemical productsManufacture of basic pharmaceutical products and pharmaceutical preparationsManufacture of rubber and plastic productsManufacture of other non-metallic mineral productsManufacture of basic metalsManufacture of fabricated metal productsManufacture of computerManufacture of electrical equipmentManufacture of machinery and equipment n.e.c.Manufacture of motor vehiclesManufacture of transport equipment n.e.c.Manufacture of furnitureOther manufacturingRepair and installation of machinery and equipmentElectricityWater collectionSewerageWaste collectionOFFICE CLERKSCivil engineeringWholesale and retail trade and repair of motor vehicles and motorcyclesWholesale tradeLand transport and transport via pipelinesWater transportAir transportWarehousing and support activities for transportationPostal and courier activitiesAccommodationFood and beverage service activitiesPre-primary educationHuman health activitiesResidential care activitiesSocial work activities without accommodation