Friday, August 15, 2014

U.S. & E.U. Developing Comparable Data for Workplace Safety

The U.S. and European Union (EU) have both historically captured and reported data on worker safety and health, but differing standards in injury definitions, data sources and collection techniques have made an apples-to-apples comparison of U.S. and EU data impractical. However, collaboration between the BLS and Eurostat–the statistical office of the EU–is working to bridge those differences and make that data comparable.

The joint effort stems back to a special session on statistics during the July 2012 Seventh U.S.–EU Joint Conference on Occupational Safety and Health in Brussels, Belgium.

A standout from a recent BLS report about the project is a comparison of U.S. and EU fatal work injury statistics in the private industry, based on 2010 data. The comparisons for the study are limited to "main industry" branches. Per BLS, the total number of fatal work injuries in those branches was 2,530 for the U.S. and 3,353 for the EU. Notable differences in the data include:
  • Nine percent of cases occurred in the manufacturing industry in the EU, compared with 14.9% of cases in the U.S.
  • Cases occurring in the “accommodation and food service activities” industry accounted for 1.4% in the EU, compared with 4% of cases in the U.S.

While the report is not indicative of distinct overarching trends and differences, its development illustrates that such comparisons could be possible in the future.

“This work begins a conversation and provides an opportunity to identify areas for further comparisons and research,” the BLS report states. “Future work and collaboration will provide better information about fatal workplace hazards and, ideally, lead to improvements in worker safety and health in both the United States and the European Union.”