Decent Work SmartLab Series 2022: Reported work-related accidents and deaths increase again in 2021

In the last ten years (2012–2021), 22.954 deaths in the formal labour market were reported in Brazil. In 2021, 571.800 accidents and 2.487 work-related deaths were registered, an increase of 30per cent compared to 2020, according to new data published by the Occupational Safety and Health Observatory.

Notícias | 20 de Abril de 2022

Brasília – Over the last ten years (2012–2021), 22.954 people died in work-related accidents in Brazil, according to newly published data from the Occupational Safety and Health Observatory, developed and managed by the Brazilian Labour Prosecution Service (MPT) in cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO) under the Decent Work SmartLab Initiative.

Between 2012 and 2021, 6.2 million workplace accidents (CATs) were notified in the Brazilian formal economy. Moreover, the National Institute of Social Security (INSS) granted 2.5 million work-related social security benefits, including sick leaves, disability pensions, death pensions, and impairment benefits. In the same period, social security spending on benefits exceeded R$ 120 billion (USD 25 billion) with work-related accidents and diseases.

"The Occupational Safety and Health Observatory completes five years of existence with an important contribution to the knowledge base on work-related accidents and occupational diseases in Brazil. Updated information with geographic details is essential for public reflections in the context of World Day for Safety and Health at Work, on April 28.”, according to the MPT’s Prosecutor General of Labour, José de Lima Ramos Pereira.

The Observatory also shows that in the last ten years, around 469 million days were spent away from work. Calculated as the sum of all the individual time in which those on leave were unable to work, this number is a way of measuring, by approximation, the productivity losses for the economy.

"Updating the database and indicators of the Occupational Safety and Health Observatory is an important vector for the promotion of social dialogue and for the joint work of taking action to prevent work-related accidents, especially in the context of the post-pandemic reconstruction. This represents a priceless gain for workers, companies, governments, and society broadly. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw that having a strong safety and health system, which includes the participation of governments, employers, workers, public health officials, and all relevant parties at the national and corporate levels, has been crucial to protecting work environments and ensuring the safety and health of workers, employers, and their families.", said the director of the ILO Office for Brazil, Martin Georg Hahn.

Occupations, sectors, and the context of the COVID-19 pandemic

Between 2020 and 2021, in the two years of the pandemic, 33.000 work-related accidents in the formal sector and 163.000 work-related sick leaves with cases of COVID-19 were recorded. Among the occupations most frequently informed, a few have numbers that stand out, such as nursing technicians (35 per cent), nurses (12 per cent); nursing assistants (5 per cent), janitors (3 per cent), and office assistants (3 per cent). Regarding the number of days away from work, the occupations most affected in the pandemic biennium were janitors (5 per cent), retail workers (4 per cent), production line feeders (4 per cent), office assistants (3 per cent), and truck drivers (3 per cent). For comparative information between the periods, access the COVID-19 section of the Observatory (for readers in other languages, we would suggest using browser translators).

Professionals in the healthcare sector continue to have the highest number of notifications in absolute and relative numbers in the 2020–2021 biennium. With the pandemic, and considering the reported cases, nursing professionals not only suffered the highest number of work-related accidents in comparison to other occupations, but also went from 6 per cent of the total in the 2018–2019 biennium (59.094 CATs) to 9 per cent of the total (72.326 CATs) in the biennium 2020–2021, an increase of 22 per cent.

The share of healthcare professionals involved in work-related accidents grew from 11 per cent in the 2018–2019 biennium to 14 per cent of the total in the 2020–2021 biennium. In absolute numbers, the cases in the sector grew by 11 per cent compared to the previous biennium (from 105.278 in 2018–2019 to 116.456 in 2020–2021).

Among other sectors that experienced an increase in reporting between the two biennia, the meatpacking industry - specifically in the case of poultry, pigs, and small animals - stands out, increasing 6per cent from 21.185 accidents in 2018–2019 to 22.443 in 2020–2021.

Work accident underreporting

The Observatory also provided updated numbers concerning the underreporting of accidents in work-related sick leave cases. In 2021, there was no prior notification of work-related accidents in about 20 per cent of the benefits granted by the INSS, a percentage very close to the average of the ten-year series considered, 21.7 per cent.

“This percentage refers to cases of more serious work-related accidents, which generate absences and benefits, including due to the Epidemiological Technical Nexus (NTEP), but the total underreporting is difficult to measure. Without data on the totality of cases, an even greater obstacle has to be dealt with to develop prevention policies” says the coordinator of the National Coordination for the Defense of the Work Environment of the FLPO(CODEMAT), Marcia Kamei.

“Work-related accidents and diseases affect millions, but cost trillions”

In total, the number of work accident benefits granted by the federal government skyrocketed again in 2021, increasing 212 per cent (from 72.367 in 2020 to 153.333 in 2021), but still below the numbers recorded in 2019, the year before the pandemic (195.841). Once again, leaves due to serious injuries stand out, such as cases of fractures, amputations, and other traumas (from 40.117 in 2020 to 93.820 in 2021, an increase of 234 per cent). As for diseases at work, the number of leaves caused by musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders, including RSI-WRMD, increased by 192 per cent (from 16.211 to 31.167 cases).

The total number of sick pay granted for depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental and behavioral disorders (work-related or not) remained at high levels, within the average of the last five years before the COVID-19 pandemic (around 200 thousand concessions).

“In addition to human and family losses, the economic costs of these cases are translated into public expenditures on the health system and social security and, in the private sector, a huge reduction in productivity derived from the sum of all days spent away from work. ILO estimates point out that these cases cause the loss of approximately 4per cent of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year. In the case of Brazil, this percentage corresponds to approximately R$ 350 billion annually, taking into account the 2021 Brazilian GDP, of R$ 8.7 trillion. In ten years, the economic losses, without accounting for the family losses, the expenses of social security and health systems, reach R$ 3.5 trillion, according to this criterion. Workplace illnesses and accidents affect millions, but can cost the country trillions,” observes FLPO prosecutor and data scientist Luís Fabiano de Assis, head of the SmartLab Initiative.

Machinery continues to stand out as the most frequent and hazardous cause of injuries

In the ten-year historical series (2012–2021), most work-related accidents were caused by the operation of machinery and equipment (15 per cent). In 2021, this percentage remained high, at 16 per cent of the total. As in previous years, occupational accidents involving machines and equipment resulted in amputations and other serious injuries 15 times more frequently than other causes, provoking three times more fatal accidents than the across-the-board average.

Preliminary data from SINAN points to a further increase in the number of notifications

According to partial data from the Notifiable Diseases Information System (SINAN) of the Ministry of Health, which involves the formal and informal sectors of the economy, the number of work-related notifications grew once again in 2021, jumping from 244.000 in 2020 (numbers updated again in 2022) to 282.000 in 2021 (an increase of at least 16per cent). According to the National Statistics Agency, IBGE, more than 40 per cent of Brazilian workers are in the informal economy.

In 2021, reports of serious work-related accidents involving children and teenagers totaled 32.500 since 2007. Last year´s preliminary data also signaled growth in the number of notifications for the age groups 5 to 13 (an increase of 19 per cent, from 88 to 105 cases reported so far) and 14 to 17 year-olds (a 46 per cent increase, from 1571 to 2295 cases).

Priority areas and recommendations for prevention campaigns

The Occupational Safety and Health Observatory also released specific studies on priority areas and comparative analyses.

In 2021, the largest increase in reportings of work-related accidents occurred in Roraima (+53 per cent), Santa Catarina (+35 per cent), and Piauí (+29.9 per cent). In the case of work-related benefits, the highest growth was registered in Tocantins (+173 per cent), Goiás (+166 per cent), and Amapá (+153 per cent). As for the municipalities with more than 100 reported accidents, Cafelândia/PR stands out (+249 per cent), followed by Tangará da Serra/MT (+137 per cent) and Brusque/SC (+122 per cent). The SmartLab OSH platform also brings data concerning all 5.570 Brazilian municipalities. Search filters regarding occupations, sectors, and types of injuries can help build detailed reports.

In 2022, using statistical techniques and artificial intelligence (SmartLab AI project), the OSH Observatory started to present AI-driven recommendations for prevention campaigns at the municipality level based on historical data from the perspective of the most common causative agents, the most affected occupations, and the most likely injuries.

“One of the most ambitious challenges in the world of artificial intelligence (AI) is to create decision support tools in the public policy domains. There is a huge amount of public data available that can reveal important patterns to enhance the intuition of policymakers. These tools are becoming accessible enough to allow for the examination of large volumes of data, expanding the ability to analyze scenarios and to foster effective public policy decisions,” adds Assis, who also coordinates the SmartLab AI project.

Concerning occupations, the most frequent campaign recommendations focus on risks faced by production line feeders (988 municipalities), construction workers (568 municipalities), and truck drivers on regional and international routes (433 municipalities). As for injuries and diseases, the most frequently recommended campaigns focus on the need to prevent fractures (3.870 municipalities), musculoskeletal and connective tissue diseases (1521 municipalities), and amputations (98 locations). Regarding the groups of causative agents, most municipalities receive the recommendation to focus on prevention campaigns against accidents caused by machinery and equipment (2.009 municipalities), exposure to biological agents (1.089 municipalities), transport vehicles (1.030 municipalities), motorcycles (483 municipalities), and chemical agents (370 municipalities).

As a result, the Observatory connects its findings with the National Campaign for the Prevention of Occupational Accidents (CANPAT), which in 2022 intends to deepen aspects of “Occupational Risk Management.” The Campaign, first launched in 1971, involves a set of actions to promote a culture of OSH prevention.

“The joint efforts of the most diverse state entities and society is of paramount importance for the sustainable reduction of occupational accidents and diseases and the promotion of safer and healthier workplaces. CANPAT is one of these initiatives, which aims to prevent accidents and illnesses at work,” highlights Romulo Machado e Silva, Undersecretary for Labour Inspection, Ministry of Labour and Social Security.

Novel information includes Occupational Health Regional Reference Centres (CERESTs) jurisdictions

In partnership with the Coordination of Workers' Health of the Ministry of Health, the Observatory now presents indicators aggregated by all the jurisdictions of Occupational Health Regional Reference Centres (CERESTs), meeting the growing demand within the scope of the National Network of Integral Surveillance to Workers' Health (RENAST). The tool aims at helping prioritization and resource allocation of these centres and shed light on the existence of myriad uncovered areas.

According to Daniela Buosi, director of Environmental, Worker Health and Public Health Emergency at the Ministry of Health, “the partnership between the Ministry of Health and the SmartLab Initiative allowed for making public a series of important information on work-related accidents and diseases according to the policy scope of the CERESTs, which is important for the implementation of the National Occupational Safety and Health Policy in the Brazilian Public Health System (SUS).”

The RENAST articulates several institutions and social actors that make up the field of Occupational Health and the performance of the SUS service network. The CERESTs are tasked with taking action to improve working conditions and the quality of life of workers through the prevention of diseases and injuries, as well as health promotion and surveillance.

About the Observatory

The Occupational Safety and Health Observatory is the first of a series of five digital observatories of the Decent Work SmartLab initiative. SmartLab is a multidisciplinary knowledge management laboratory created to foster data-driven, decent work policies in Brazil.

The Observatory combines public repositories and free technology to transform data into information and knowledge on the most important decent work topics, following the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly the goal 8 (Decent Work & Economic Growth). Its first version was conceived and developed by the FLPO between 2015 and 2017, according to the parameters of the research “Work Accident: from Sociotechnical Analysis to the Social Construction of Changes,” conducted by the School of Public Health at the University of São Paulo (USP). The OSH Observatory is the cornerstone of the SmartLab Initiative.

The fundamental objective of the Observatory is to better inform and support public policies for the prevention of work-related accidents and diseases, so that all actions, programs, and initiatives are guided by evidence at the national, regional, and municipality levels.

The Observatory's data sources are public and official repositories in the area of Health and Social Security, which give rise to the Statistical Yearbook of Work-Related Accidents and the Statistical Yearbook of Social Security, among other important publications. Public data from the Annual List of Social Information (RAIS) and the Notifiable Diseases Information System (SINAN), among other public sources, are also considered.

The new SmartLab IA project will bring to the platform a series of studies using artificial intelligence to process and analyze the platform's more than 500 indicators, available to all Brazilian municipalities.


Since its launch, the SmartLab Initiative's five digital observatories have received 770.000 visits from more than 74 countries. In 2021, the platform received access from almost 100.000 new users, 91 per cent from Brazil and 9 per cent from other countries. About 25 per cent of the total 170.000 users are frequent visitors.

The platform has served, among other actions, to raise awareness regarding occupational risks, improve the efficiency of prevention policies, and determine with data what should be the focus (occupations, economic sectors, vulnerable groups) of prevention and punitive actions. The Google Scholar platform registers more than 400 academic publications that have used the platform to produce scientific knowledge, including doctoral theses, master's dissertations, and articles published in Brazil and abroad.