The findings of the research project Accidents in agriculture (2011-2015) suggest that awareness about accidents is in itself a preventative measure. To contribute to increased awareness in Norway the researchers decided to sum up their results and recommendations in a popularized report that has been very well received.
Restricted to the north-western part of the Scandinavian Peninsula with its fjords and mountains, Norwegian agriculture is small-scale by nature. As of 2015 there were 41 177 active farm units in Norway. The average farmland per farm is 23 hectares. The projects own survey shows that 40 percent of the farms are pure family farms (only members of the family working on the farm), and 41 percent of the farms are run with the help of farmer substitutes (avløser in Norw.), other help and/or foreign workers. 18 percent of the farms are run without any assistance.
Agriculture is the Norwegian mainland industry holding the highest accident rate. It is very difficult to get a complete overview of the number of accidents, but based on the project’s survey, we estimate that nearly 2 900 farmers had an accident that involved injury in 2015. This corresponds to almost eight farmers every day. The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority gets involved when there are fatal accidents at work, and they have registered seven farmers who died at work in 2014. However, the farms are often homes, and other than the farmer may die from an accident there, the farmer may die from an accident there in his/her leisure time or when he/she rents out his/her services to someone outside the farm. Given such an understanding, 14 fatal accidents related to agricultural activities happened in 2014, according to the Norwegian Farmers’ Union.
The many accidents and near-misses are due to the many, different and complex tasks and work situations at a farm. Furthermore, the research project found that farmers in general are not risk takers, and that they generally try to reduce the risk of accidents when possible. This is the scientists’ assessment based on the analysis of multiple data sets and after five years (2011-2015) of studying accidents in agriculture.
Recommended actions to reduce risk of accidents
In the report Not one farmer to lose – on accidents and working capability in agriculture the researchers present 20 measures to reduce the risk of accidents in Norwegian agriculture. Some of the measures can be implemented at the individual farm, others can be taken at a higher level that includes farms in general. Each farm is recommended to increase their number of measures against accidents, and the report gives the farmer many issues to reflect on to reduce the accident risk at his/her own farm. At last, many measures aim towards the higher level of systems, organizations, laws and other regulations. What happens or not happens at the higher level will have great significance because agriculture is a complex industry, with small business units and diversified leadership responsibilities. Thus, programs, joint activities and common goals become essential elements to achieve increased security.
The report describes accidents and working capability in agriculture from different angles, presented in short chapters. Here are some examples from the reports content:
In a study from 1982, 7 percent of the farmers said they often had to work even if they were sick. In 2012, 21 percent said the same.
The number of accidents with injury increases with the number of hours worked on the farm, and 44 percent of the farmers is working at the farm more than 1 700 hours (1 700 hours is the Norwegian industrial full-time equivalent). 16 percent works more than a year and a halfs full-time equivalent.
Farmers with income from work outside the farm are defined as part-time farmers in this report. Part-time farmers with much work outside the farm also work a lot on the farm, and they have a high proportion of injuries per hour worked on the farm.
Both concerns for farm economy, perceived stress and mental complaints increase the probability for an accident or a near-miss.
Farmers have to deal with the unexpected and they live with constant unpredictability – it is an essential aspect of their lives.
28 percent of farmers’ accidents (with and without injury) is related to the work with animals.
When farmers talk with other farmers in everyday conversations, they seldom talk about health, safety and environment (HSE).
Funding and implementation
The research project Accidents in Agriculture was funded by the Norwegian Research Council and Norwegian Research Funding for Agriculture and Food Industry. The project’s formal name was: Safety culture, occupational health and accidents in Norwegian agriculture analysis of state and future challenges.
The Norwegian researchers who have participated in the project came from Centre for Rural Research, with Gro Follo as project leader, International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS) and Department of Occupational Medicine at St. Olav’s Hospital.
The project has been carried out in close cooperation with the agricultural industry through the projects reference group, led by Inger Johanne Sikkeland from the Norwegian Farmers Union.
The project has collected and used the following data: Registration Data (two sets), the survey Agriculture and occupational health 2012, in-depth interviews with farmers and repeated interviews with participants at HSE-courses and the leaders of the courses.
Report 03/16 Ikke en bonde å miste
Norwegian Centre for Rural Research 2016
Download Report 03-16 Ikke en bonde å miste Norsk senter for bygdeforskning.pdf (3.23 MB)