A worker falling from a roof, a delivery man on a bicycle knocked down by a car, a mechanic burned during a repair … In 2019, the fatalities at work still number in the hundreds. 412 people would have died that year while exercising their profession, according to a meticulous count kept by Matthieu Lépine, history professor in college in Montreuil (Seine-Saint-Denis).
The idea of recording these accidents at work – serious and fatal – took him one day in January 2016, after words from Emmanuel Macron, then Minister of the Economy. Praising the merits of employers, the minister argued bluntly on BFMTV that “the life of an entrepreneur is often harder than that of an employee”. He added: “He can lose everything, he has fewer guarantees. “
Challenged by these words, the professor immediately embarks on research, reads the regional press, identifies the cases of accidents. “At that time, I had no particular connection with the subject, but I wanted to take Macron at my word. I saw very short articles, often short ones, on the dead at work every day. I started to count them a little irregularly and to share them on a Facebook page. “
The months pass and the list goes on. In early 2019, Matthieu Lépine finally launched a Twitter account (@DuAccident) and decided to make a daily inventory of all the cases published in the press. Strangers also write to him, revealing certain accidents that have been passed over in silence or that have occurred within their company as well as in their family.
“A mother contacted me after the death of her 17-year-old son during his internship. He was an apprentice lumberjack. She did not find it normal that no representative of the State had contacted her after this tragedy. Since then, she has been fighting for an investigation to be launched to find out the circumstances of her son’s death, ”says the teacher. Touched by this umpteenth death that made no noise, Matthieu pays tribute to the young boy through a portrait published on his blog.
“Figures below reality”
Going through the list of all these fatal accidents, we obviously notice similarities. The first will not surprise anyone: “There are a lot of workers. The latter are also four times more affected by accidents at work than senior managers, said Monday, the Observatory of inequalities. Other professions come back frequently: truck drivers, farmers, technicians … Another notable point is the large number of temporary workers or subcontractors.
So what can we learn from this sum of tragic stories? “The fact that we always die at work in 2020”, replies the thirty-something. Every week workers lose their lives in an attempt to earn it.
If Matthieu Lépine endeavors to scrupulously update his figures, they remain however well “below reality”. In total, the professor counted 644 seriously injured and 412 dead in 2019. For his part, Health Insurance, which records work accidents every year, counted 651,103 cases including 551 fatal in 2018, the 2019 assessment not being not yet published.
Indifference of journalists and politicians
“My count is below the figures for Health Insurance, knowing that their own calculation is not even representative of all workers,” he notes. As a reminder, Health Insurance reports work accidents occurring only in the private sector. It does not take into account the public service, nor the self-employed or even farmers (yet very represented in the teacher’s list).
The census of Matthew is not more exhaustive, but his goal is not there, he recalls: “My goal is not to replace the official figures but to highlight all these victims who deserve more than ‘a simple brief in the local newspaper. Above all, the teacher deplores the indifference “of journalists as politicians on the subject”.
Finally, highlighting these accidents also involves calling on the State. Inspired by journalist David Dufresne and his famous “Allô Place Beauvau” denouncing police violence, Matthieu Lépine alerts Minister of Labor Muriel Pénicaud on Twitter during each new accident. Unsuccessful so far.
An increase in accidents at work
“I do not expect a response from him because I am not the spokesperson for anyone. In my opinion, she should rather contact the families of the victims, unions or employee representatives to try to do something, ”notes Matthieu. Contacted by Le Parisien, the minister’s office did not respond to our requests.
The subject is obviously sensitive. The “Working Conditions” surveys, carried out by the ministry on the basis of employee declarations, indicate an increase in work accidents over the past ten years. In 2005, 6.9% of employees declared that they had suffered a work accident during the year. They were 10.2% in 2016, 50% more.
How to explain such an increase? It is “possible that suffering at work has increased even more”, observes the Observatory of inequalities bitterly.