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Socio-economic Costs of Accidents at Work and Work Related ill Health

The benOSH (Benefits of Occupational Safety and Health) project is aimed at evaluating the costs of accidents at work and work-related ill health and at demonstrating the incremental benefit to enterprises if they develop an effective prevention policy in Occupational Safety and Health. The research project relied on a two-track approach including a desk research (scoping study/ literature review) and a field research based on multiple case studies.
Providing companies an insight in the costs and benefits of occupational safety and health can contribute to healthy work but also to a healthy economy. According to the ILO the total costs of work-related accidents and ill-health amount to approximately 4 per cent of the world’s GDP (ILO, 2006). A considerable loss that has a negative impact on economic growth and puts a burden on society. Thus preventing occupational accidents and diseases should make economic sense for society as well as being good business practice for companies.

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Although the emphasis of the benOSH study lies on company level the literature review first depicts the global burden of accidents at work and work-related ill-health by providing some data and showing the impact on economic growth. Many workers in Europe continue to perceive that their jobs pose a threat to their health or safety. According to a recent Eurostat study (2010) 3.2% of the workforce in the EU-27 reported an accident at work in the past 12 months (data from 2007). This means that approximately 6.9 million workers were confronted with an accident at work. The figures for work-related health problems are even higher. No less than 8.6% of the workers in the EU-27 reported a work-related health problem in the past 12 months (data from 2007). This means that no less than 1 out of 10 European workers is every year affected by an accident at work or a work-related health problem. 

All these cases of accidents at work and work-related ill-health hinder economic growth. If the proportion of people with ill-health increases, economic growth will slow down. A correlation can also be noticed (ILO, 2006) between national competitiveness and the national incidence rates of occupational accidents. Countries with the best records on accidents at work are the most competitive leading to the conclusion that poor working conditions put a heavy burden on the economy. This leads to economic losses. The ILO has estimated that the total costs of accidents at work and work-related ill-health amount to approximately 4 per cent of the world’s GDP (ILO, 2006). According to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, the costs to Member States of all work-related accidents and diseases range from 2.6% to 3.8% of GDP (European Agency, 1997)