Fewer people went to work in 2021, however, the number of serious accidents recorded at work still increased by more than 2% compared to 2020 and 2019, according to HR services group Liantis.
The publication of the figures came in light of World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April. The shortage of employees in the labour market plays a role in this increase, according to experts.
"Because of the tightness in the labour market, a lot of people without or with little experience have started working. This increases the risk of a serious accident, although most accidents at work are easily preventable," Bart Geerts, Team Leader for Occupational Safety at Liantis said.
Last year, Liantis investigated 679 accidents resulting in death or serious or permanent injury, up from 665 serious accidents at work in 2020, or an increase of 2.11%.
New people facing increased risk
In 2019 – before the Covid-19 crisis and increased teleworking – the number of serious work accidents was 664, about the same as in 2020. However, the number of fatal accidents at work did fall in 2021 from 14 (2020) to eight.
Last year, more than seven out of ten accidents (71.3%) overcame employees who were employed for less than five years, more than in 2020. Of these accidents, more than half (35.8%) occur during the first year of employment.
"Due to the shortages in the labour market, many new, inexperienced people started work. We know that this group runs a high risk of having an accident at work," said Geerts.
He stressed that many employers had no choice but to hire people without or with little experience.
"That is why it is so incredibly important to pay attention to a good welcoming policy with sufficient attention to safety on the work floor. Only in this way can we reduce as much as possible the number of serious accidents happening to inexperienced employees."
Fractures and burns
The top three most frequently injured body parts are the fingers, followed by feet or ankles, and finally hands and wrists, while most of these injuries (73.3%) are fractures and burns (11.5%).
"Very often, fractures are the result of falls. A slip and fall happen quickly when climbing stairs, ladders and scaffolding. Often employees just want to work fast to get ahead, but of course, it's better they don't," Geerts said, adding that many accidents are "actually easy to avoid."
Liantis stressed the need for companies and organisations to have accidents investigated when they occur. Geerts added that investing in workplace accident prevention after a work-related accident usually prevents them from happening again.