Non-work accidents exceed one million

Almost 600,000 people are injured every year at home or during leisure activities Keystone

More than a million non-work-related accidents happen in Switzerland every year, costing the country SFr13 billion ($11.7 billion).

This content was published on January 22, 2008 - 16:56

A study by the Council for Accident Prevention (CAP) shows that half of the costs incurred – which equate to three per cent of gross domestic product – relate to road accidents, although these only account for one in ten of the total number.

Carried out with research company Ecoplan, the study also looked at accidents in sport, at home and during leisure activities.

The analysis of the costs of accidents includes direct costs, indirect costs and non-material costs. According to the report, non-material costs include the impact on the victim of shock, physical and psychological suffering, decline in enjoyment of life and lost consumption opportunities.

The material costs of accidents include medical treatment, loss of productivity, damage to property, legal and police costs, as well as administrative costs.

While the material costs easily translate into francs, the non-material costs are also calculated for the purposes of the study and they more than quadruple the overall annual cost of accidents, bringing them to SFr54 billion.

"From the social and economic point of view, non-professional accidents constitute a serious social problem. It is important therefore to put more emphasis on their prevention," CAP said.

Danger in sport

CAP spokeswoman Natalie Rüfenacht told swissinfo that prevention would take many forms. "In the area of road accidents improvements can be made to infrastructure that are more adapted to vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians."

Sport sees almost 320,000 injuries a year. This includes 174 people killed and 764 seriously disabled. A further 11,000 suffer serious injury.

Rüfenacht explained it was not always easy to publicise the danger of sports accidents. "Accidents in sport are a bit of a taboo subject because the authorities want to encourage people to take up sport and don't want sport to have negative associations."

"We say it's very good to do sports, but people should also take precautions, especially in winter sports," she added.

Financial implications

When studying the financial implications of accidents, the average material cost of a death on the roads is SFr1.3 million, as opposed to SFr386,000 for someone who is seriously injured.

"Fatal accidents are expensive, not to mention the non-material costs. There are often legal costs and accident investigation costs to take into account," Rüfenacht said.

Most victims of accidents are aged between 17 and 64. Four out of five traffic accidents affect this group. This stands at 75 per cent and 52 per cent for sport and home accidents respectively.

People aged 65 and over are more often involved in accidents in the home and while taking part in leisure activities.

Men are more likely to experience injury through sports. Two-thirds of the costs of sports injuries are for men and 58 per cent of the costs of road accidents come from men.

On the positive side, road safety seems to be better in Switzerland than in neighbouring countries. With only 49 road deaths per million inhabitants in 2006, its position is more favourable than Germany – 62 per million – France (74), Austria (88) or Italy (92 in 2005).

In brief

The study is based on all accidents in 2003 of people resident in Switzerland, regardless of whether the accident happened in the country or abroad.

The costs of road, sports, home and leisure accidents are reached by multiplying the number of accidents by the cost per case.

This is the first study to take into account the non-material costs of accidents. These costs are calculated using the level of compensation applicable.

While it is difficult to compare these results reliably with other countries, Switzerland has fewer road deaths than its neighbours and more Swiss people take part in sport.

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Key facts

Material costs of 2003 non-work accidents (in millions):

Road – 6,495
Sport – 2,071
Home and leisure – 4,533
Total – 13,099

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