Indicators of work injuries, arising from national monitoring systems, are important outcome measures of occupational health and safety. However, underreporting of non-fatal work injuries (>3 days absence from work) is known to be common. Eurostat has pointed out to large differences between countries in the reporting level.
According to Eurostat, the reporting is close to 100% in the countries which have a work injury insurance system (Finland, Germany) in which the compensation of work injuries is more generous than that of non-occupational injuries. In Denmark, Norway, Sweden which have a universial social security coverage and similar compensation for occupational and non-occupational injuries, the reporting level has been much lower than expected.
In the formerly socialist BSN countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russian Federation), the level of reporting of work injuries is mostly unknown. Yet, high rates of fatal work injuries in these countries in combination with low rates of non-fatal injuries suggest that much of the non-fatal injuries remain unregistered.
Within the context of the Baltic Sea Network of Occupational Health and Safety (BSN) (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Russian Federation, Norway, Poland, Sweden) semi-quantitative analyses of the level of reporting work injuries were recently made. The results suggested that less than 10-20% of non-fatal work injuries were registered in many formerly socialist BSN countries.
Decision makers tend to trust that official statistics provide a reasonably correct appraisal of the state of affairs. It must be difficult to accept as true that, due to underreporting, the majority of work injuries, 80% or more in some countries, may not be included in the national statistics.
If only a small proportion of work injuries is registered in a country it is impossible to say with any degree of certainty what the actual situation is or is the situation developing for better or for worse.