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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.
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       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.
       .../...
                       
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       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.

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