Why does work kill so much in France?

On May 17, a worker died after falling from a block making machine in Ors (Hauts-de-France). He was in his twenties. Two days later, a 20-year-old Volvo Truck employee died, trapped under the truck pallet he was repairing. On May 20, a 42-year-old worker lost his life in Lot-et-Garonne, after falling into a well where he was working.

In 2022, death on the job is not uncommon. Two French workers die every day, fourteen a week, and more than 700 a year – 790 in 2019, if we count the social security accounts of the general scheme (733 deaths) and agricultural (57). Incomplete figures, because they do not include civil servants or the self-employed, especially small business owners

In his work Work accidents, deaths and unseen injuries (ed. Bayard, 2021), sociologist Veronique Dupas-Leturnaux, professor and researcher at the School for Advanced Studies in Public Health (Ehesp), questions the structural causes of this disappearance. In addition to the numbers, it questions the intensification of work (stress, fatigue, understaffing, short deadlines) and its often informal organization (subcontracting), which sometimes leads to irreparable harm. In the face of denial, you’d like to remember what should be the obvious: “Accidents at work are caused by work.”

The term “accident” refers to the concept of chance. When we say about an event that it is accidental, it is because, in principle, it is of an unexpected nature.she explained. In fact, there is real uniformity in the risk of injury and death at work by sector of activity. »

Hiding from basic professions

The Sumer survey by Dares, the statistics agency of the Ministry of Labor, published in August 2021, showed that the number and frequency of serious accidents at work are highest in temporary work, construction, medico-social, agriculture, and forestry. , or fishing. On the other hand, finance, IT or refining are among the least risky sectors.

This social stratification partly explains the lack of mobilization on the subject according to Véronique Daubas-Letourneux:

“The concealment of these deaths in the public debate is explained by society’s concealment of these essential professions, whether they are workers or women working in the care and health care sector. Personal assistance, especially those affected by work accidents. These are also professions where unionization is difficult and in some cases even be risky.”

In an effort to alert public opinion, on April 28, the International Day for Safety and Health at Work, a trade union group and associations organized an action day titled “Stop Impunity for Employers”. In a press release, they described “massacre” World Health Organization “Eliminates the world of work”, The result, according to them, “Coordinated management and government practices”.

Through an accurate file, they detailed and collected numbers and studies on the scale of the phenomenon, and denounced the lack of complete data, the numbers that have been frozen since 2010, and the underreporting of work accidents. A system in favor of impunity for employers is taking shape: the development of subcontracting, temporary work, a reduction in the number of inspectors, occupational medicine dependent on school principals, etc. Not forgetting that many deaths still escape the counter.

Apart from some professions like farmers, work-related suicides are also not counted.

“Suicide is, by definition, a multifactorial deathconfirms Véronique Daubas-Letourneux. If it occurs outside the workplace, the association can be difficult to prove. For example, a person must have left a written record indicating their work. »

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In the work injury system, fatalities are the tip of the iceberg. It is assumed that all work-related accidents should be publicized beforehand. But not many of them were simply announced. In its latest report to Parliament and the government, the Committee on Underreporting of Work Accidents and Occupational Diseases noted that 48% of work accidents that occurred in 2017 went unreported.

“We are in a country where work is particularly intense, and our productivity rates are phenomenal,” Jerome Vivenza, CGT

According to Jérôme Vivenza, the confederate member of the CGT responsible for occupational health issues, pressure for de-authorization from companies appears to have intensified in recent years. ” This phenomenon of non-disclosure is unfair to the officials concerned, who are denied financial compensation, and slows down the development of prevention “the union indicates.

Compared to other European countries, France is a bad student. According to the latest Eurostat publication, France unfortunately ranks first in the number of fatal accidents at work: 3.5 recognized accidents per 100,000 employees, compared to 1.7 on average. The German, Swedish and Dutch working worlds are three times less deadly.

Although France outperforms the countries of Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania) and Greece, this reality needs to be qualified.

“This data may be explained in particular by the faulty procedures for identifying and compensating for work accidents in these countries.”Jerome Vivenza confirms. But France remains much higher than countries with similar social systems, such as Belgium or Italy. We are in a country where work is particularly intense, and our productivity rates are phenomenal. »

Between 2018 and 2019, the rate of work-related deaths increased by nearly one point. This can be explained in part by a new method for calculating the National Health Insurance Fund (Cnam), which since 2019 has included fatal illnesses at work. In any case, France is the only European country where the curves keep rising.

bug prevention

It must be said that French bosses care a little less about the safety of their employees than their European neighbours. According to the ESENER survey by the European Agency for Health and Safety at Work, only 55% of them in 2019 regularly take an annual occupational hazard assessment – but it is mandatory since the European directive dating back to 1989. This rate is 75% on average within the EU .

In mid-March, the government addressed this issue by publishing a Serious and Fatal Work Accident Prevention Plan (ATGM) included in the Occupational Health Plan 2022-2025. In the program: more prevention (awareness and training measures, information on preventive assistance, better monitoring of temporary workers, etc.), but no specific budget extension. In 2022, the Finance Bill plans to allocate just over 24 million euros to occupational health and safety.

“The organization of work is not at all questionable”Louis-Marie Barnier, PhD, a sociologist, research associate at the Laboratory of Labor Economics and Sociology (LEST) and a unionist at CGT, laments. “We continue to take a still very individualistic approach to work accidents.”

For the trade union and trade union group organizing “Stop Impunity for Employers”, “Demolition of counter-powers of employees in their working conditions” It explains, in part, the numbers of work accidents in France. Among those retreating ‘counterforces’Jerome Vivenza cites Bill Mill: abolition of Health, Safety and Working Conditions Commissions (CHSCT) by Macron decrees of September 2017, shortage of labor inspectors (1796 per 20 million employees), or accreditation of an occupational doctor in a company director (in the companies he works for) At least 2,200 employees, the occupational physician is an employee of the company).

Viewed as a simplification of the bodies dedicated to social dialogue, the abolition of CHSCTs has weakened health problems in one body, the Commission on Social and Economic (CSE). To replace it, the legislation provided for the creation of working conditions health and safety committees (CSSCT), which are mandatory only in companies with at least 300 employees, as well as in companies exposed to severe risks.

In total, according to France’s strategy, 28% of employees, who often work in small and medium-sized enterprises, are no longer covered by a body dedicated to issues of safety and working conditions.

Zero horizon for death in Europe, not before 2055

Many of the union’s demands are in the New People’s Ecological and Social Union Program (Nupes), which plans to pass the Work Safety Act. On the agenda: re-establish collective action teams, double the number of labor inspectors, recognition Burnt As an accident at work and retirement at age 60.

The challenge posed by this law is to rebuild collective guarantees so that working conditions do not continue to deteriorate mechanically.summarizes Anthony Smith, labor inspector, labor department union official and Marne legislative candidate for newbies.

Recently, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) drew a chilling note: at the current rate, zero deaths in Europe will not be reached before 2055. Countries have yet to set a target in this area.

For sociologist Veronique Dupas-Leturnaux, nothing will change until we change the paradigm. ‘It is urgent to make death at work a political topic’concluded.

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