MaltaToday | 27 August 2008

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NEWS | Wednesday, 27 August 2008

NSO injury stats are inflated, OHSA says


The rate of accidents on the workplace are liable to be over-inflated, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA), because of the statistical representation of the National Statistics Office (NSO).
While the recent quarterly statistics on work-related accidents might easily lead one to conclude that lackadaisical safety measures on the Maltese workplace continue to be the order of the day, the NSO statistics actually can shed some light on the extent of false injury benefit claims.
At 1,182, the non-fatal accidents at work increased by 7.4% between April and June when compared to the same quarter in 2007.
But the OHSA has made it a point to clarify that the number of non-fatal accidents are being collated by the NSO from the register of injury claims submitted to the Department of Social Security (DSS).
This means that the number presented by the NSO are injury claims for sick leave due to workplace accidents, for even just one day.
“But there are also instances where the injury claims are submitted even if there is no actual incident, but so that injury benefit can be claimed. And that is why the registered figure could be higher than it actually is,” the OHSA chief executive Mark Gauci said.
In fact, the OHSA says the three-monthly statistics are not considered to be a proper measure of the rate of injuries, claiming the rate of injuries has actually decreased when studied on annual basis.
The authority’s figures indicate that non-fatal injuries actually decreased from over 6,000 to just over 3,000 between 1986 and 2006.
Even in its annual report, the OHSA maintains that the widely held belief that accidents are on the increase “is factually wrong since such a claim is based on a comparison of the number of injuries obtained in any three-month period... which is statistical nonsense.”
In fact, a look at the quarterly reports of the NSO show that in the first three months of 2008, the rate of injuries actually decreased by 12% over the same period in 2007, after having decreased by 4.5% in the fourth quarter of 2007 and before that, having decreased by 5.5% between July and September.
The OHSA said the rate of accidents per 100,000 workers was a more reliable statistic.

Foreign workers
Interestingly, the OHSA’s annual report states that 26% of all fatal accidents investigated by the OHSA over the past five years involved foreigners in the construction industry.
“A matter of concern is the apparent increase in the utilisation of foreign workers, especially in the construction industry. This industrial sector is, under normal circumstances, considered high risk, and the use of workers who are poorly informed, inadequately trained and with whom communication is in any case problematic, greatly increases the associated problems.”
The OHSA claims that while European studies show that accidents and ill health cost the national economies about 1.5 to 4% of the GDP, it estimates the cost to the Maltese economy at €97,833,682 – based on a conservative figure of 2% of the GDP for 2006.
The NSO statistics released last week for the months of April-June 2008 found 32.9% of accidents at work had occurred in manufacturing; 15.4% in construction; and 11.7% in the transport, storage, and communications sectors.
Those mostly affected are in the elementary (53.1%) and trades (17.4%) occupations, and with 44.5% of the accidents occurring to persons under 35 years of age.

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