Safety and health statistics

Indicators of safety and health at work provide the framework for assessing the extent to which workers are protected from work-related hazards and risks. They are used by enterprises, governments and other stakeholders to formulate policies and programmes for the prevention of occupational injuries, diseases and deaths as well as to monitor the implementation of these programmes and to signal particular areas of increasing risk such as a particular occupation, industry or location. They include the following:

  • Indicators of outcome: number of occupational injuries and diseases, number of workers involved and work days lost;
  • Indicators of capacity and capability: number of inspectors or health professionals dealing with occupational safety and health;
  • Indicators of activities: number of trainee days, number of inspections;

Current international guidelines

Current international statistical guidelines on occupational injuries are found in the “Resolution concerning statistics of occupational injuries (resulting from occupational accidents), adopted by the Sixteenth International Conference of Labour Statisticians in 1998.

A little bit of history

The subject of industrial accident statistics was placed on the agenda of the First International Conference of Labour Statisticians in 1923, which adopted a resolution. It covered the classification of accidents and the form of calculation of frequency and severity rates. The Conference also considered the topic of statistics of occupational diseases, requesting that they be compiled in separate tables. The ILO subsequently carried out studies of the method followed in the compilation of industrial accident statistics in various sectors, including in particular coal mining and railways and then agriculture, mining and quarrying, manufacturing and railways, as well as methodological studies of statistics of occupational morbidity and mortality.

The resolution was later revised by the sixth International conference of Labour Statisticians in 1947, to improve international comparability, particularly in respect of the methods used to calculate industrial injury rates, and made detailed recommendations on the methods to be followed in calculating frequency and severity rates.

Some years later, the Eighth International Conference of Labour Statisticians considered the standardization of statistics of occupational diseases, and adopted a resolution indicating in particular the sources of data to be used, the disease to be recorded and the classifications to be established. The Tenth International Conference of Labour Statisticians adopted a revised resolution that superseded existing guidelines, and introduced the term “employment injuries” which covers industrial accidents, commuting accidents and occupational diseases. It defined the notions of fatalities, permanent disablement and temporary disablement and suggested four classifications of accidents, by type of accident, physical agency, the nature of the injury and the bodily location of the injury.

National statistics on safety and health and ILO compilation activities

Since 1941, the ILO has collected statistics on occupational injuries for publication in the Yearbook of Labour Statistics, requesting countries to provide data in accordance with the most recent international recommendations on the subject. As from 1999, therefore, countries have been asked to furnish the ILO with statistics conforming as far as possible to the recommendations of the 16th ICLS Resolution, as follows: cases of fatal injury, cases of non-fatal injury with lost workdays, cases of permanent incapacity for work, cases of temporary incapacity for work, days lost by cases of temporary incapacity, and fatal and non-fatal injury rates. Where possible, these data are provided separately by sex and by economic activity, according to the most recent version of the International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities. Data by sex are available for about 40 per cent of the countries with data on occupational injuries. Statistics on occupational diseases are not collected by ILO.