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"The Community's essential objective is to achieve a constant improvement in the living and working conditions of its citizens. In presenting a communication on a new impetus for consumer protection policy to the Council in July 1985, the Commission recognized consumer safety as one of the main priorities for Community action. In this context, the five- year demonstration project aimed at the creation of a permanent system for the exchange of information on home and leisure activity accidents which the Council has just approved represents a significant landmark in Community consumer policy. This is an event to be welcomed unreservedly. Using the information obtained via the new system, the Commission will very soon be able to present an action programme to combat and prevent accidents occurring in the home and in the course of leisure activities". Such were the terms in which Mr Grigoris Varfis, the Member of the Commission with special responsibility for consumer policy, greeted the Council's recent decision to establish a five-year demonstration project aimed at the creation of a permanent system for the exchange of information on home and leisure activity accidents. Is such a system necessary ? The data available confirms the need for a Community system of information on accidents. Every year, some 75 to 80 % of accidents take place in the home or in the course of leisure activities. Road accidents and industrial injuries represent no more than 6 % and 10-15 % of the total respectively. .../... - 2 - It is estimated, by extrapolation from the figures available, that domestic accidents result in around 50 000 deaths each year, while the number of injuries is over the 40 million mark. To give some idea of comparative orders of magnitude, the number of road accidents entailing medical treatment is roughly one fortieth of the figure for domestic accidents. Quite apart from the distress they cause, such accidents entail a major reduction in the national product, because of the resulting periods of invalidity. Each year, some 2 million manual workers and salaried employees are absent from work for a significant period as a result of domestic accidents. The Commission believes that hospitalization and health insurance costs for domestic accidents alone may reasonably be put at more than 30 000 million ECU for all the Member States together - a figure comparable to the total Community budget. The value of other countries' experience Those countries such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States which have invested in similar systems are now beginning to see their efforts bear fruit. By way of example, the American NEISS system, which has been in operation since 1973, has yielded remarkable results - making it possible to reduce by 5 million the number of deaths and injuries over a ten-year period and to achieve a saving of around 14 000 million dollars. In the course of the same ten-year period, the number of domestic accidents declined by 28 %, while the number of deaths fell by around 27 %. Details of the demonstration project A Community data bank will be set up with a view to : - obtaining precise information on the nature and frequency of accidents occurring in the Member States so as to permit a more accurate evaluation of the effectiveness of preventive measures; - linking each accident to a clearly defined product or piece of equipment; - facilitating the planning of accident prevention activities; - improving the design and labelling of products; - facilitating the selection of priority actions; - informing and educating consumers so as to promote safer product utilization. .../... - 3 - Data will be obtained primarily from hospital casualty departments, which are felt to be the best source of information, and possibly also from other sources such as : poison antidote centres, general practitioners, insurance bodies and companies, research bodies, consumer associations, manufacturers' association, etc. The project is to be launched over the coming months. The Commission has already signed contracts with five Member States (the Netherlands, Ireland, France, Italy and Greece), covering a total of 14 hospitals which will shortly begin the collection of information. Contracts are in the process of being negotiated with the other Member States. This means that, by late 1986, some 35 hospitals will have been brought within the ambit of data collection for the demonstration project. The latter will, however, only because fully operational some time in 1987. For the system to function optimally, it will probably need to involve some 90 hospitals distributed according to the population of the individual Member States - a level of participation which will, it is hoped, be reached by 1990. If the findings are to be significant, the sample size will need to be between 400 000 and 900 000 cases per year over the Community as a whole.