Global Estimates of Fatal Occupational Accidents

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Global Estimates of Fatal Occupational Accidents
Jukka Takala
Data on occupational accidents are not available from all countries in the world. Furthermore, underreporting, limited coverage by reporting and compensation schemes, and non harmonized accident recording and notification systems undermine efforts to obtain worldwide information on occupational accidents. This paper presents a method and new estimated global figures of fatal accidents at work by region. The fatal occupational accident rates reported to the International Labour Office are extended to the total employed workforce in countries and regions. For areas not covered by the reported information, rates from other countries that have similar or comparable conditions are applied. In 1994, an average estimated fatal occupational accident rate in the whole world was 14.0 per 100,000 workers, and the total estimated number of fatal occupational accidents was 335,000. The rates are different for individual countries and regions and for separate branches of economic activity. In conclusion, fatal occupational accident figures are higher than previously estimated. The new estimates can be gradually improved by obtaining and adding data from countries where information is not yet available. Sectoral estimates for at least key economic branches in individual countries would further increase the accuracy. (Epidemiology


Keywords: occupational accidents, fatality rates, statistics, recording and notification systems. The International Labour Office (ILO) collects and publishes global accident figures and rates that are based on national recording and notification systems.1 The ILO also supports member states in the enhancement of their recording and notification systems for occupational accidents and diseases.2 However, reasonably reliable data may only be obtained ftorn a rather limited number of countries, ie, from about one-third of the 174 ILO member states. The information is not based on harmonized recording and notification systems, underreporting is common, and in many countries the reporting and compensa- tion systerris cover only selected economic activities, leaving out major sectors, such as agriculture, which are known to have higher-than-average accident-frequency rates. Furthermore, some countries cover commuting accidents, traffic accidents at work, and occupational diseases, whereas others do not. Fatal occupational accidents are better reported than nonfatal ones in developing countries, but the same 1 limitations apply. Underreported figures and low estimates are currently used as a baseline for priority setting at the national level, which leads to preventive action that is less dim appropriate. In addition to a better picture on fatal accidents, rough estimates of nonfatal accidents could be derived from the data on fatal accidents. Studies in the United States,3 Australia,4 Zimbabwe,5 Finland,6 and the European Union7,8 show that, if reporting is reliable enough, a rather constant ratio exists between fatal and nonfatal From the Occupational Safety and Health Branch, Working Conditions and Environment Department, International Labour Office, 4 Route des Morillons, CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland. ©1999 by Epidemiology Resources Inc.

accidents leading to absence from work. This was shown first by the classical work of Heinrich9 as early as 1931. Earlier estimates have been based on a crude global fatality rate (8 per 100,000 workers) obtained from existing sources of industrialized countries. No attempts have been made to estimate such rates regionally. These earlier figures have been shown, by new information from developing countries, to be underestimated. New sources are based on real counts of fatalities in selected ILO member states and range from 1.5 to 5 times higher1 than the old estimates.

Objective The objective of this paper is to establish a better method for estimating the number of fatal occupational...
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