Background The Baltic Sea Network on Occupational Health and Safety (BSN) (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Northwest Russia, Norway, Poland, Sweden) has paid attention to a problem related to national monitoring systems that provide statistical indicators of work injuries.
In Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and the Russian Federation, the rates of fatal work injuries have been much higher than the EU-15 average. Yet, the incidence rates of non-fatal work injuries have been very low at the same time. A high rate of fatal work injuries in combination with a low rate of non-fatal work injuries suggests that much of the non-fatal work injuries remain unregistered.
Underreporting of work injuries is known to be widespread in many countries. However, the actual size of underreporting has largely remained unquantified. The present study made an effort to estimate the order of magnitude and the level of reporting of non-fatal work injuries (>3 days absence from work) in the BSN countries.
Methods Semi-quantitative analyses were conducted based on official statistical indicators that the national authorities had submitted to the International Labour Organisation between 2003 and 2007. Statistical indicators from Finland, Germany, and the EU-15 average were used as benchmarks against which the indicator data of work injuries of other countries were compared. The analyses used two separate schemes of semi-quantitative estimation and three different benchmark countries or regions.
Results The results indicated that in several BSN countries the reporting of non-fatal work injuries was less than 10 to 20% of the estimated true level.
Conclusions The decision makers of several countries may have at their disposal very deceptive statistical information when setting policy objectives, estimating economical loss, or defining priorities on the national agenda.
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