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9 September 2016

Spain: Precarity leads to an increase in accidents in the workplace

The latest statistics on accidents in the workplace in Spain indicate that they increased by 12.3 per cent in 2015 in relation to 2012. In 2015 there were more than 529,000 accidents, including 629 fatalities. The data available for the first six months of 2016 confirm this worrying upward trend.

The increase is not explained solely by rising employment after several years of crisis. An increase in the rate of frequency of accidents can be noted in all the sectors examined, namely industry, construction, agriculture, services and media. This worrying trend represents a step backwards in relation to the regular reduction in workplace accident frequency rates between 2000 and 2012. The rise in accident frequency rates is more substantial among women (15 per cent increase between 2012 and 2015) than among men (8 per cent rise).

The trade unions emphasise that the main cause of this rise in accidents at work is precarity. According to Isabel Araque, confederal secretary of UGT, one of the two main trade union confederations in Spain, ‘precarity at work made possible by government reforms (increase in fixed term and part-time contracts) leads to a deterioration in health and working conditions’. Pedro Linares, an official at the other major Spanish trade union centre, CCOO, clarifies: ‘on one hand, the workload increases; on the other hand, during the crisis companies have prioritised other things and prevention has become a secondary consideration’. The two officials insist that fear of losing their job makes workers accept worse working conditions.

Accidents on the way to or from work deserve particular attention. They affect mainly women (almost 57 per cent, although they represent only 45 per cent of the population). The main reasons are that women work part-time more than men, have to combine two jobs and on top of that are responsible for the bulk of domestic and family duties in contrast to men. 

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