Almost 132,000 occupational accidents occurred in Finland in 2016. This figure includes wage-earners and entrepreneurs (including agricultural entrepreneurs). The majority of the accidents took place at workplaces or while commuting (more than 109,000). Fatal accidents numbered 24 during the year. The annual costs of occupational accidents are estimated to be approximately EUR 2.5 billion. However, it is difficult to put a monetary value on human suffering. In the light of these figures, zero accidents seems to be a distant vision. How could occupational accidents be prevented most efficiently in the 2020s? What should we know about their mechanisms?

Before industrialization, accidents, including occupational accidents, were interpreted as God’s will, with prayer being the best way to prevent them. According to this mindset, people were powerless against the forces of nature. However, a number of other accident theories have been proposed during the past century.

Are occupational accidents concentrated among a small group of people with an inherent tendency to have accidents, meaning that it is a personality trait? Today, we already have better information for answering this question in the form of more advanced theories on accidents. The next important development from the accident tendency theory mentioned above was to acknowledge that, in addition to the person themselves, the work environment also influences the emergence of accidents. According to this, human and technical accident factors make up a chain in which one part failing causes the entire chain to fail, similarly to dominoes. From the point of view of preventing accidents, it is essential to prevent any single key factor from failing. This also resulted in the “iceberg” model in which both near-misses and the most severe accidents – deaths – are viewed as being caused by largely the same reasons.

It has also been suggested that the causes of accidents can most commonly be found in errors by the management. Safety should be managed in the same way as anything else in a company. The supervisor is a key person in this management. This insight opened the mindset known nowadays as safety management.

In recent years, there has been a lot of talk of resilience. This theory emerged in environmental science, and it emphasises the ability of an organization to foresee and circumvent threats to it. According to the theory, occupational accidents are the result of variation in human performance. Technology should be built such that it allows human errors without the risk of accidents. Here, it is also possible to talk about flexible technology, whatever it means in each case.

Scientists nowadays agree on one thing. People make errors, that is what makes us people and not machines. How can errors be minimized at a construction site where hundreds of employees representing different nationalities apply their own views of safe operations at the shared workplace? Taking human factors into consideration in management, planning, supervisory work and work performance could be the key in the pursuit of zero accidents. How could it be realized at sites amidst the hurry?

Workplace accidents

2019

There were 103156 accidents at work in Finland in 2019.

Profession

All occupationsAll occupations Number of occupational accidents: 103156Craft and related trades workersCraft and related trades workers Number of occupational accidents: 26459Personal service workersPersonal service workers Number of occupational accidents: 22912Plant and machine operators, and assemblersPlant and machine operators, and assemblers Number of occupational accidents: 13927Elementary occupationsElementary occupations Number of occupational accidents: 11112Technicians and as...Technicians and associate professionals Number of occupational accidents: 9783ProfessionalsProfessionals Number of occupational accidents: 7664Clerical support ...Clerical support workers Number of occupational accidents: 5580Skilled agricul...Skilled agricultural, forestry and fishery workers Number of occupational accidents: 2021Vocational sc...Vocational school students Number of occupational accidents: 1932ManagersManagers Number of occupational accidents: 1143Arm...Armed forces Number of occupational accidents: 301Pri...Primary school pupils Number of occupational accidents: 116Un...University students Number of occupational accidents: 115...Unknown (2) Number of occupational accidents: 78...Upper secondary school students Number of occupational accidents: 12...Inpatients Number of occupational accidents: 1Building and related trades workers, excluding electricians(12760 work accidents)Building and related trades workers, excluding electricians Number of occupational accidents: 12760Metal, machinery and related trades workers(9605 work accidents)Metal, machinery and related trades workers Number of occupational accidents: 9605Electricalandelectronictradesworkers(2879 work accidents)Electrical and electronic trades workers Number of occupational accidents: 2879Foodprocessing,woodworking,garment(970 work accidents)Food processing, wood working, garment and other craft and related trades workers Number of occupational accidents: 970Handicraft(245 work accidents)Handicraft and printing workers Number of occupational accidents: 245(0 work accidents)a77 Number of occupational accidents: 0(0 work accidents)a76 Number of occupational accidents: 0(0 work accidents)a70 Number of occupational accidents: 0(0 work accidents)a79 Number of occupational accidents: 0(0 work accidents)a78 Number of occupational accidents: 0Personal care workers(9667 work accidents)Personal care workers Number of occupational accidents: 9667Personal service workers(6144 work accidents)Personal service workers Number of occupational accidents: 6144Sales workers(5290 work accidents)Sales workers Number of occupational accidents: 5290Protective servicesworkers(1811 work accidents)Protective services workers Number of occupational accidents: 1811a59(0 work accidents)a59 Number of occupational accidents: 0a57(0 work accidents)a57 Number of occupational accidents: 0a56(0 work accidents)a56 Number of occupational accidents: 0a55(0 work accidents)a55 Number of occupational accidents: 0a50(0 work accidents)a50 Number of occupational accidents: 0Drivers and mobile plant operators(7344 work accidents)Drivers and mobile plant operators Number of occupational accidents: 7344Stationary plant andmachineoperators(5029 work accidents)Stationary plant and machine operators Number of occupational accidents: 5029Assemblers(1554 work accidents)Assemblers Number of occupational accidents: 1554a88(0 work accidents)a88 Number of occupational accidents: 0a87(0 work accidents)a87 Number of occupational accidents: 0a86(0 work accidents)a86 Number of occupational accidents: 0a85(0 work accidents)a85 Number of occupational accidents: 0a84(0 work accidents)a84 Number of occupational accidents: 0a80(0 work accidents)a80 Number of occupational accidents: 0Labourers in mining,construction,manufacturingandtransport(4887 work accidents)Labourers in mining, construction, manufacturing and transport Number of occupational accidents: 4887Cleanersandhelpers(2962 work accidents)Cleaners and helpers Number of occupational accidents: 2962Foodpreparationassistants(2042 work accidents)Food preparation assistants Number of occupational accidents: 2042Refuse workersandother(1093 work accidents)Refuse workers and other elementary workers Number of occupational accidents: 1093Agricultural,(80 work accidents)Agricultural, forestry and fishery labourers Number of occupational accidents: 80(48 work accidents)Street and related sales and service workers Number of occupational accidents: 48a99(0 work accidents)a99 Number of occupational accidents: 0a90(0 work accidents)a90 Number of occupational accidents: 0a97(0 work accidents)a97 Number of occupational accidents: 0a98(0 work accidents)a98 Number of occupational accidents: 0Health associateprofessionals(4203 work accidents)Health associate professionals Number of occupational accidents: 4203Legal,social,culturalandrelatedassociateprofessionals(2211 work accidents)Legal, social, cultural and related associate professionals Number of occupational accidents: 2211Scienceandengineeringassociateprofessionals(1891 work accidents)Science and engineering associate professionals Number of occupational accidents: 1891Business andadministrationassociateprofessionals(1309 work accidents)Business and administration associate professionals Number of occupational accidents: 1309Informationandcommunications(169 work accidents)Information and communications technicians Number of occupational accidents: 169a30(0 work accidents)a30 Number of occupational accidents: 0a39(0 work accidents)a39 Number of occupational accidents: 0Teachingprofessionals(3212 work accidents)Teaching professionals Number of occupational accidents: 3212Scienceandengineeringprofessionals(1333 work accidents)Science and engineering professionals Number of occupational accidents: 1333Legal, socialandculturalprofessionals(1249 work accidents)Legal, social and cultural professionals Number of occupational accidents: 1249Business andadministrationprofessionals(918 work accidents)Business and administration professionals Number of occupational accidents: 918Healthprofessionals(625 work accidents)Health professionals Number of occupational accidents: 625Information(327 work accidents)Information and communications technology professionals Number of occupational accidents: 327a29(0 work accidents)a29 Number of occupational accidents: 0a27(0 work accidents)a27 Number of occupational accidents: 0General andkeyboardclerks(3645 work accidents)General and keyboard clerks Number of occupational accidents: 3645Otherclericalsupport(811 work accidents)Other clerical support workers Number of occupational accidents: 811Customerservices(586 work accidents)Customer services clerks Number of occupational accidents: 586Numericalandmaterialrecordingclerks(538 work accidents)Numerical and material recording clerks Number of occupational accidents: 538a49(0 work accidents)a49 Number of occupational accidents: 0a40(0 work accidents)a40 Number of occupational accidents: 0Market-orientedskilledagriculturalworkers(1735 work accidents)Market-oriented skilled agricultural workers Number of occupational accidents: 1735Market-orientedskilledforestry,fisheryand(286 work accidents)Market-oriented skilled forestry, fishery and hunting workers Number of occupational accidents: 286a64(0 work accidents)a64 Number of occupational accidents: 0Subsistencefarmers,fishers,huntersandgatherers(0 work accidents)Subsistence farmers, fishers, hunters and gatherers Number of occupational accidents: 0a60(0 work accidents)a60 Number of occupational accidents: 0Vocationalschoolstudents(1932 work accidents)Vocational school students Number of occupational accidents: 1932Chiefexecutives,(558 work accidents)Chief executives, senior officials and legislators Number of occupational accidents: 558Administrativeand(255 work accidents)Administrative and commercial managers Number of occupational accidents: 255Productionand(236 work accidents)Production and specialised services managers Number of occupational accidents: 236and(94 work accidents)Hospitality, retail and other services managers Number of occupational accidents: 94(0 work accidents)a10 Number of occupational accidents: 0(0 work accidents)a19 Number of occupational accidents: 0(0 work accidents)a18 Number of occupational accidents: 0(0 work accidents)a17 Number of occupational accidents: 0(0 work accidents)a16 Number of occupational accidents: 0(0 work accidents)a15 Number of occupational accidents: 0(194 work accidents)Non-commissioned armed forces officers Number of occupational accidents: 194(73 work accidents)Commissioned armed forces officers Number of occupational accidents: 73Armedforcesoccupations,otherranks(34 work accidents)Armed forces occupations, other ranks Number of occupational accidents: 34a06(0 work accidents)a06 Number of occupational accidents: 0a05(0 work accidents)a05 Number of occupational accidents: 0a09(0 work accidents)a09 Number of occupational accidents: 0a04(0 work accidents)a04 Number of occupational accidents: 0a08(0 work accidents)a08 Number of occupational accidents: 0a07(0 work accidents)a07 Number of occupational accidents: 0Armedforces(0 work accidents)Armed forces Number of occupational accidents: 0Primaryschoolpupils(116 work accidents)Primary school pupils Number of occupational accidents: 116Universitystudents(115 work accidents)University students Number of occupational accidents: 115Unknown(2)(78 work accidents)Unknown (2) Number of occupational accidents: 78Uppersecondaryschoolstudents(12 work accidents)Upper secondary school students Number of occupational accidents: 12Inpatients(1 work accidents)Inpatients Number of occupational accidents: 1

Injured bodypart

No information Number of occupational accidents: 1707Head Number of occupational accidents: 15954Neck Number of occupational accidents: 1695Back Number of occupational accidents: 8808Torso and organs Number of occupational accidents: 3501Upper extremities Number of occupational accidents: 41398Lower extremities Number of occupational accidents: 25240Whole body and multiple sites Number of occupational accidents: 43108 Number of occupational accidents: 25Other Number of occupational accidents: 518No information Number of occupational accidents: 1707Head Number of occupational accidents: 12Head, brain and cranial nerves and vessels Number of occupational accidents: 3159Facial area Number of occupational accidents: 2806Eye(s) Number of occupational accidents: 7952Ear(s) Number of occupational accidents: 482Teeth Number of occupational accidents: 645Head, multiple sites affected Number of occupational accidents: 212Head, other parts not mentioned above Number of occupational accidents: 686Neck Number of occupational accidents: 34Neck, inclusive spine and vertebra in the neck Number of occupational accidents: 1180Neck, other parts not mentioned above Number of occupational accidents: 481Back Number of occupational accidents: 33Back, including spine and vertebra in the back Number of occupational accidents: 6228Back, other parts not mentioned above Number of occupational accidents: 2547Torso and organs Number of occupational accidents: 86Rib cage, ribs, including joints and shoulder blades Number of occupational accidents: 2389Chest area including organs Number of occupational accidents: 211Pelvic and abdominal area, including organs Number of occupational accidents: 449Torso, multiple sites affected Number of occupational accidents: 199Torso, other parts not mentioned above Number of occupational accidents: 167Upper extremities Number of occupational accidents: 56Shoulder and shoulder joints Number of occupational accidents: 4812Arm, including elbow Number of occupational accidents: 3983Hand Number of occupational accidents: 7593Finger(s) Number of occupational accidents: 20630Wrist Number of occupational accidents: 3894Upper extremities, multiple sites affected Number of occupational accidents: 314Upper extremities, other parts not mentioned above Number of occupational accidents: 116Lower extremities Number of occupational accidents: 176Hip and hip joint Number of occupational accidents: 555Legs, including knees Number of occupational accidents: 11329Ankle Number of occupational accidents: 7478Foot Number of occupational accidents: 2997Toe(s) Number of occupational accidents: 1573Lower extremities, multiple sites affected Number of occupational accidents: 334Lower extremities, other parts not mentioned above Number of occupational accidents: 798Whole body and multiple sites Number of occupational accidents: 27Whole body (systemic effects) Number of occupational accidents: 540Multiple sites of the body affected Number of occupational accidents: 37438 Number of occupational accidents: 25Other Number of occupational accidents: 2Other parts of body not listed above Number of occupational accidents: 516HeadBackUpper...Lower...Whole body and...Eye(s)Back, including...Shoulder and...Arm, including...HandFinger(s)WristLegs, including...AnkleMultiple sites...

Preceding event

Last event prior to the injury

Slipping – Stumbling and falling –...
Body movement without any physical...
Body movement under or with physical...
Breakage, bursting, splitting,...
Loss of control (total or partial) of...
No information on the deviation in the...
Deviation by overflow, overturn, leak,...
Other deviations not listed above in...
Others

Cause

The factor that caused the injury

Materials, objects, products, debris,...
Accessways, surfaces, ground, doors,...
People, animals, plants
Other material agents not listed in...
No information on the immediate...
Hand tools, not powered
Fixed stairs, roofs, openings,...
Office equipment, personal items,...
Others

Injury mechanism

How the body part and the cause touched

Horizontal or vertical impact with or...
Contact with sharp, pointed, rough,...
Physical or mental stress
Struck by object in motion, collision...
Trapped, crushed, etc.
Other contacts – modes of injury not...
Bite, kick, etc. (animal or human)
Hazardous substances – on/through skin...
Others

Accident frequency rate

Top 10 industries prone to work accidents

05101520253035404550556065Employment activitiesEmployment activities: 69 Number of accidents / million working hoursConstruction of buildingsConstruction of buildings: 64 Number of accidents / million working hoursSpecialised construction activitiesSpecialised construction activities: 62 Number of accidents / million working hoursManufacture of motor vehicles, trailersManufacture of motor vehicles, trailers: 62 Number of accidents / million working hoursVeterinary activitiesVeterinary activities: 61 Number of accidents / million working hoursSecurity and investigation activitiesSecurity and investigation activities: 55 Number of accidents / million working hoursManufacture of fabricated metal productsManufacture of fabricated metal products: 54 Number of accidents / million working hoursPostal and courier activitiesPostal and courier activities: 51 Number of accidents / million working hoursManufacture of wood and of products of wood and corkManufacture of wood and of products of wood and cork: 50 Number of accidents / million working hoursServices to buildings and landscape activitiesServices to buildings and landscape activities: 48 Number of accidents / million working hoursNumber of accidents / million working hours

Figure 1. Workers’ Compensation Center, wage-earners occupational accident statistics, data at 22 March 2018. The database was generated on 27 April 2018 Workers’ Compensation Centre/Janne Sysi-Aho