The ‘massive phenomenon’ of work-related deaths in France

As May Day celebrations fill the streets with festive marches and labour union protests across French cities today, a darker truth boils below the surface. In a country often applauded for its strong labour protections, two workers die each day due to job-related accidents, according to the latest national health insurance figures. Many worried observers say the numbers don’t even come close to capturing the full extent of these fatal mishaps.

Although Matthieu Lépine is a history and geography teacher at a high school outside of Paris, his X feed does not reflect his daytime job. At least not this one. His posts almost always highlight incidents of work-related deaths.

There is the 31-year-old bicycle delivery driver who died after being run over by a car. There is the father of three who fell to his death on his first day working at a construction site. There is the worker who was buried under rubble while digging a trench.

“These are not isolated incidents,” says Lépine, who is also the author of the 2023 book “L’hécatombe invisible – enquête sur la mort au travail” (“Invisible Massacre: An Investigation into Death in the Workplace"). “It is a massive phenomenon,” he insists.

"What I can say for certain is that, in the past 20 years, the number of work-related deaths published by the national health insurance office has not gone down,” says Lépine.

‘Warning signs’

Such was the case for Alban Millot, who was only 25 years old when he fell to his death after installing solar panels on the roof of a barn in 2021.


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