Occupational accident and disease insurance system yet to be developed

Toomas Mattson | 3/17/2011 | 12:00 AM

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TALLINN, 17 March 2011 - A follow-up audit conducted by the National Audit Office has shown that the state has not managed to implement changes in the working environment to protect the health of working people since the original audit. Although the National Audit Office drew attention to the insufficient activity of the state in dealing with occupational accidents and diseases in 2007, the state still lacks an overview of the extent of such accidents and diseases, and no system has been developed to insure against them. With the failure to establish principles of liability for employers, the state is left to bear the majority of the costs related to occupational accidents and diseases through the pension and health insurance system.

According to official statistics, around 3000 occupational accidents are reported in Estonia every year, 20–30 of which lead to the deaths of the workers involved. Occupational diseases and illnesses are diagnosed in around 70 people annually. What makes Estonia unique is the fact that compared to the number of fatal accidents, very few occupational accidents which cause minor or major injuries are registered. This is not because Estonia boasts a working environment that is better than the European average, but because such accidents are not reported.

The Ministry of Social Affairs has conceded that not all occupational accidents in Estonia are registered, the main reason for which is a lack of interest in doing so on the part of employers. However, the National Audit Office feels that if the state lacks an overview of the accidents that have occurred, it cannot develop a policy to resolve such problems.

Estonia is one of the few Member States of the European Union that lacks a separate insurance system for occupational accidents and diseases, which motivates employers to improve their working environments. The costs that arise from such accidents and illnesses are mostly being borne at present by the state through its pension and health insurance system, and the way in which occupational accidents and diseases are compensated is not connected to the state of the working environment and the contribution made by employers.

No occupational accident and disease insurance system – which has formed part of the working plan of various governments as well as the platforms of almost every party in the recent parliamentary elections – has managed to be set up in the last 15 years.

Although the government has delegated the task of developing a form of occupational accident and disease insurance that is appropriate to Estonia to both the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Social Affairs in recent years, the different types of insurance to date and their effect on improving the working environment have not been thoroughly analysed and no draft act has been produced for the introduction of occupational accident and disease insurance.

In light of this problem, the National Audit Office produced a brief analysis of the effectively functioning systems in Finland, Germany and the Netherlands in the course of its audit and highlighted elements of each whose use in the development of an Estonian system should be considered.

As a result of the audit, the National Audit Office made a number of proposals to the Minister of Social Affairs in terms of how to better ensure the funding of the treatment (including diagnosis of diseases and illnesses) of those suffering due to their working environments and the compensation of damages. Here the accountability of employers must be greater and their obligations set out in more detail.

The National Audit Office also recommended that that Minister of Social Affairs and Minister of Finance carry out a comprehensive analysis of the potential for and influence of the introduction of various types of occupational health care systems in Estonia and, on this basis, develop a system to be implemented in the country for working environment safety, the compensation of occupational accidents and diseases and the rehabilitation of those affected by both.

Background
The National Audit Office completed its audit entitled “The state’s activities in reducing the number of occupational accidents” in 2007, as a result of which it found that that the state had not done everything it needed to in order to ensure a safe working environment for the people of Estonia. In 2010 the National Audit Office analysed whether the recommendations it made three years previously had been acted on and whether the state had done everything within its power to preserve the working capacity of the population by ensuring a safe working environment.

The latest survey on European working conditions showed that, depending on the risk factor, Estonia is in as much as a 10% worse position in certain fields than the European average (e.g. contact with vibration by 9%, contact with noise by 8.5% and in lifting heavy weights by 7.5%). Surveys into working conditions are also carried out by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, whose latest pan-European survey, the results of which were published in 2009, indicated that 84% of Estonian respondents feel their health problems are the result of their work place. 54% felt that their working conditions had improved somewhat, while just 5% felt that the situation was much better. Contact with risk factors in the working environment is monitored and measured in Estonia by the Labour Inspectorate.

In its 2007–2011 programme of action the government promised, in the field of social and health care policy, to establish occupational accident and disease insurance which would be based on unemployment insurance and not increase the tax burden for employers.


Toomas Mattson
Head of Communication Service
National Audit Office
Telephone: +372 640 0777
Mobile: +372 51 34 900
E-mail: toomas.mattson@riigikontroll.ee
 

  • Posted: 3/17/2011 12:00 AM
  • Last Update: 11/10/2015 5:50 PM
  • Last Review: 11/10/2015 5:50 PM

Estonian Trade Union Confederation organised a public meeting on 28 April 2008 at Tammsaare Park in Tallinn dedicated to the memory of the workers having died as a result of work accidents and occupational diseases. Unfortunately the state has for years not been able to establish a system of insurance for work accidents and occupational diseases.

Presshouse/ Scanpix Baltics

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