Kooperationsstelle Hamburg IFE - Institut für internationale Forschung, Entwicklung, Evaluation und Beratung

Cost benefit of prevention (benOSH)

Socio-economic costs of work-related accidents and ill health in comparison to preventive measures (benOSH)

On behalf of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, the institutes Prevent from Brussels and the Kooperationsstelle Hamburg IFE GmbH conducted a study in order to establish the operational costs of work-related accidents and ill health. These were then  compared to the necessary investments for related measures that have or could have prevented these accidents or diseases. Also benefits like increased productivity through improved processes or machinery etc. were considered. The commission’s directorate expected more detailed indications, which management considerations influence prevention measures in companies.

The partners established 401 case studies in more than 50 companies. On the one side accidents at work of different severity (commuting accidents are excluded)  and on the other side work related diseases such as musculoskeletal problems, skin- and respiratory diseases, psychological stress and cases of violence were considered.

Guided by a short questionnaire the researchers established important anonymised information regarding the selected accidents or diseases, like working time (lost days, retraining, replacements), equipment (damages, replacements), production, organisation and environment. Out of these data the researchers  calculated the company based costs using a special Excel spreadsheet. Thereafter measures were selected, which have or would have prevented the accidents or diseases. These measures ranged from simple gloves to sophisticated equipment over organisational measures and training to motivation courses. For these measures we established the necessary investments and possible benefits like increased productiveness of improved machines. Finally the amounts were compared in a cost-benefit analysis.

The study was started in February 2009. The data collection in the companies was finalised in July/August 2010. The project was completed at the end of  2010. The results and reports were accepted by the European Commission. A limited print edition of the report and the publication was issued in November 2011. About 10 copies were sent to important project supporters in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. Digital versions are available since April 2012 at the website of the General Direction: >>.

The study suggests that in the vast majority of cases, investing in occupational safety and health measures results in significant savings for companies. In large companies particularly health protection measures will lead to considerable savings. However, in order that such measures can be developed a rethinking of all stakeholders is necessary.

Information about Prevent (Project coordinator):
Prevent is a highly esteemed multidisciplinary institute (www.prevent.be) which seeks to minimise occupational risks by promoting the quality of working conditions and by improving work organisation. The institute is active in research and supports, advises and informs companies and institutions, as well as workplace-accident insurance companies, external occupational prevention and protection services, professional associations, the social partners, authorities and other players in society.


Lothar Lißner