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Coronavirus Impacts Accident Statistics

The coronavirus pandemic had a significant impact on the incidence of accidents and illnesses at work in the first half of 2020. The situation is underscored by the provisional figures published by the federation of employers’ liability associations and social accident insurance funds, the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV), Berlin/Germany, on 5th October 2020. While the number of accidents at work and school and while commuting fell sharply, there was a significant increase in the number of reported occupational diseases.

Author/Autor: German Social Accident Insurance / Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung e. V. (DGUV), Berlin

According to DGUV statistics, the number of occupational accidents fell from 432,684 to 367,016 (15.2 %), and the number of reportable commuting accidents fell by around 20 %. The figures for school accident insurance fell even more sharply. While there were 584,763 school accidents in the first half of 2019, there were 301,543 in the first six months of 2020 – a decline of almost 50 %. The number of accidents on the way to and from school also fell by almost half, from 50,479 in the first half of 2019 to 26,881 in the first half of 2020.

The number of employees who suffered a fatal accident on their way to or from work decreased by about one-fifth to 106. The number of those who died in an occupational accident decreased by almost a third, from 251 in previous year to 171 in 2020. This striking percentage decrease in fatal occupational accidents is only partly due to the pandemic, however. In 2019, the number of fatal occupational accidents was exceptionally high because the conclusion of criminal trials resulted in some deaths occurring between 2000 to 2005 not being included in the statistics until 2019.

“The coronavirus pandemic has had a distinct, although indirect, impact on the number of accidents,” said Stefan Hussy, Chief Executive of DGUV. “One of the reasons for this is probably the large number of employees who have gone on short-time work. Another is that millions of employees have switched to working from home, virtually eliminating their risk of accidents while commuting. Seen in this light, the numbers are not really surprising.” The same is true of the school accident insurance. The almost complete closure of daycare centres, schools and universities led to a historically unique decline in the number of accidents.

The pandemic nevertheless represents an unprecedented challenge in the post-war period, according to Hussy. For example, the experts from the employers’ liability insurance and accident insurance funds have developed and published sector-specific recommendations for contagion prevention in companies and educational institutions within a short period of time. “Occupational safety is health protection. Small and midsize enterprises in particular benefit from having an efficient partner and advisor for safety and health at their side in this exceptional situation: the employers’ liability insurance and accident insurance funds.”

The number of new cases of accident pensions rose to 8,735, an increase of 1.7 % compared to the first half of 2019. It should be noted here that a decision about accident pensions is not taken until the rehabilitation measures are drawing to a close. So the figures on accident pensions are usually related to occupational accidents that occurred several months before.

Under certain conditions, employees in inpatient or outpatient medical facilities and in laboratories can obtain recognition of -Covid-19 as an occupational disease. As of the end of June, the accident insurance institutions had received a total of 13,601 reports of suspected occupational diseases related to the coronavirus. The result was an increase of about 24 % in the number of reports of suspected occupational diseases from 41,723 to 51,789. If the incidence of illnesses related to the coronavirus are considered separately, there was a slight decrease in the other occupational illnesses.

Per 25 September 2020, the social accident insurance institutions and the accident insurance funds reported 19,573 reports of suspected occupational diseases involving Covid-19 to the DGUV. A decision has been made for about 11,300 of these reports, whereby an occupational disease has been recognised in 8,545 cases. It should be noted that the reporting of suspected illnesses to the accident insurance institutions is sometimes delayed, so the statistics do not reflect the current incidence of disease.