The Federal Agency for Occupational Risks (Fedris) reported in its most recently published annual report that the number of reported occupational accidents between 2002 and 2016 has dropped dramatically. This involved 204,879 accidents in 2002 and went down to 142,229 in 2016 (see graph). This positive trend is mainly due to a reduction of occupational accidents; sadly, accidents while commuting show a different picture. These types of accidents have remained the same or even risen slightly: From 20,627 in 2002 to 22,347 in 2016.
The level of seriousness of the accidents while commuting was also considerable, certainly when compared to the occupational accidents:
- In 2016, we recorded 110 fatalities as a result of occupational accidents, 42 during the journey to work.
- We have established that the number of accidents resulting in permanent incapacity in 2016 was 2.1% higher for the journey to work: 12% compared to 9.9%. The chances of a serious accident on the journey to work is significantly higher than in the work place.
- The number of accidents resulting in temporary incapacity is proportionally parallel in both categories. However, the duration of the incapacity is significantly higher for accidents while commuting. In 2016, 4.7% of the accidents while commuting resulted in a temporary incapacity of more than three months. For occupational accidents, this was 4%.
Prevention plays an important role in limiting the number of accidents, as well as the level of seriousness of these accidents. We clearly differentiate between occupational accidents and the journey to work. Most companies have been focusing on prevention on the work floor for quite some time, in close collaboration with Vanbreda and the insurer. These investments have reaped their rewards: the number of occupational accidents has decreased by 35% between 2002 and 2016 and the consequences of these types of accidents are generally less serious.
During that same period, the number of accidents while commuting has remained fairly consistent and even shown a slight increase. The reason for this is that we have established that insufficient attention is being paid to the prevention on the journey to work. We therefore need to catch up. Government bodies have invested in awareness campaigns along the motorways for many years. However, companies are advised to invest in the safety of their employees, both from a human and a financial perspective. Each temporary or permanent incapacity or fatal accident is not only sad, but also greatly affects the damage statistics of the company and therefore also the insurance premium.
On the other hand, companies that score high on prevention can enjoy a lower rate for their accident-at-work insurance. Insurers take into account the full risk when determining fees, so both the occupational accident and the journey to work risk. Prevention efforts on the journey to work are therefore very interesting. In doing so, companies must take into account all means of transport, and therefore also pedestrians.
We would like to draw attention to commuting by bike. The Flemish government body is drawing up a new mobility plan for Flanders whereby the focus lies on alternative means of transportation, such as public transportation and bicycles. Companies mainly promote this in order to resolve congestion and parking problems in their company and emphasise the importance of health to their employees. The government bodies support these initiatives, for example, by subsidising the purchase and use of bicycles.
However, there is an important point of attention when promoting commuting by bike on a massive scale. Recent analysis among our customers shows that the amount of bike accidents during the journey to work has risen sharply. Insurer KBC has also established this alarming evolution and has reported that, for the first time ever, bike accidents during the journey to work represented more than half of their accidents while commuting during the first half of 2017. Moreover, the use of e-bikes for commuting purposes is becoming more and more popular in Belgium. This is reflected in more serious accidents while commuting than those with the classic non-motorised bicycle. Companies focusing on commuting by bike are, therefore, recommended to take the necessary preventive and safety-promoting measures.
Vanbreda will be glad to provide tailor made prevention measures for each customer. In doing so, we will define the problem areas and draw up a specific action plan. When determining prevention measures for accidents on the journey to work, we can also draw up a cross-analysis between occupational accidents and car accidents.
Minor efforts in terms of prevention can already make a difference. You can, for example, hand out fluorescent jackets or helmets to employees who travel to work by bike. You could also organise an annual bike check-up, at the same time the company cars are called in for maintenance. We are also seeing that a community is formed in certain companies of bikers who keep each other posted on traffic conditions.
For more information, call us on + 32 3 217 54 07 or e-mail us at AccHealth@vanbreda.be.