Project: Estimating the cost of accidents and ill-health at work: A reveiw of methodologies


This project was submitted on 10/06/2014 and published by EU-OSHA

The costs of work-related injuries and illness can be substantial. In the EU-27 in 2007, 5,580 accidents at the workplace resulted in death and 2.9 % of the workforce had an accident at work that resulted in more than three days of absence. Additionally, approximately 23 million people had a health problem caused or made worse by work across a 12-month period (Eurostat, 2010).
Establishing an accurate overall estimate of the cost to all stakeholders at a national or international level with regard to work-related injuries and illness due to poor or non-occupational safety and health (OSH) is a complex task. However, it is vital that policy-makers understand the scope and scale of poor or non-OSH in order to implement effective measures in this policy area.
TNO and Matrix were commissioned by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) to review studies evaluating the costs of OSH, critically compare methodologies and make recommendations for future research regarding the estimation of the cost of poor or non-OSH at a macro level. The focus was on scientifically published papers that provide a monetary value attached to the loss in productivity and increase in health problems resulting from poor or non-OSH.
The literature review identified studies in scientific databases (PubMed, Scopus, OSH-ROM and PsycINFO) that reported on the estimation of these costs. Altogether, 475 studies were identified and screened, 29 of which were shortlisted (including six additional studies, available in English or Dutch, identified by the International Labour Organization, EU-OSHA and national-level occupational health and safety institutions).
The final selection of studies from the shortlist then followed the subsequent criteria:
 covers a broad range of industries or a key industry for OSH (e.g. construction);
 not focused on a specific type of injury or illness;
 related to one of the European Union (EU) Member States.
Fourteen studies were selected that met at least two of the above criteria, and, in collaboration with EU-OSHA, nine of these were chosen for full review.
Each of the nine studies was assessed and compared with respect to the two key steps required to provide a quantitative estimate of the cost of occupational injuries and illnesses:
(1) the identification of the number of cases and
(2) the application of monetary values to the identified cases.
Regarding the number of cases, findings from the comparative analysis suggest that most studies drew on existing literature, surveys and statistics — typically labour force surveys, compensation statistics and national registries — as the focus of the papers was to establish cost estimates. In some studies, survey data were directly used to establish the number of cases; others applied the ‘population attributable risk’ method by which the probabilities of work-related exposure to a particular risk factor and the relative risk of developing a condition are estimated and applied to the overall number of cases to estimate the number of work-related cases.
At a broader level, studies applied either the incidence or the prevalence method; the former estimates the number of new cases in a given year (and then calculates all future costs for those cases) and the latter estimates the total number of cases in a given year. Either is methodologically valid; the choice depends mostly on data availability. The incidence method, however, gives a better approximation of current conditions, which may be useful for estimating changes over time.
In general, there is a significant potential for underestimation and underreporting of the number of cases, especially for long-latency disease (for which the cause may be difficult to establish) or for small-scale incidents or cases that do not result in a long absence from work (or may not be reported at all). Several papers used expert opinion to mitigate this, which is to be encouraged in future cost calculations. Further research on narrowing the extent of underestimation and statistically accounting for it is recommended.

Agriculture, Aviation and Aerospace, Chemical, Construction, Education, Engineering, Entertainment and Leisure, Environmental and Waste management, Finance, Fire, Food and Drink, Healthcare, Local Authorities, Manufacturing, Media, Nuclear, Offices, Offshore, Other, Public Sector, Quarrying / Mining, Railway, Retail, Telecommunications, Transport

Organisation: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work EU-OSHA

12 Santiago de Compostela,
(Edificio Miribilla) 5th Floor,
E-48003 ,
+ 34 944-358-400
+ 34 944-358-401

Principal Investigator: Xabier Irastorza, Dietmar Elsler (EU-OSHA)

Other Researchers: Marjolein de Weerd (TNO); Rory Tierney (Matrix); Birgit van Duuren-Stuuman (TNO); Eveline Bertanou (Matrix)

Project Management: Xabier Irastorza, Dietmar Elsler (EU-OSHA)

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