Farmers have most accidents

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Nearly 300 farmers were killed on the job in Norway during the past 20 years, making their profession the most dangerous in the country even after a law was introduced that tries to force farmers to use seat belts why driving their tractors.

Tractor accidents still account for most farming deaths. PHOTO: Views and News

A new report from labour regulators shows that 273 persons lost their lives in agricultural accidents between 1989 and 2009, writes newspaper Nationen.

The accident rate is also high in the construction branch and in the transport branch, but agriculture has always been in a class by itself,” Ingrid Finboe Svendsen of the labour regulation agency Arbeidstilsynet told Nationen. “That’s where we have the most fatal accidents.”

The fatality rate has actually been cut by almost half during the 20-year period, but that’s mostly tied to the reduction in farmers in Norway. Three farmers have died in work-related accidents so far this year. Nearly 30 percent of those killed between 1989 and 2009 were over age 67.

The introduction of a mandatory seat belt law for tractor drivers in 2002 has reduced the number of deaths tied to overturned tractors. Svendsen said her agency also has increased its monitoring efforts and said  “we cooperate well” with the agricultural industry.

“The goal is fewer accidents,” she said. “People shouldn’t die on the job.”

While tractor accidents still cost the most lives, ox’s horns also present a major liability. The regulators report a major increase in the number of farmers being gored to death by their animals, which Svendsen attributes to many Norwegian farmers’ lack of familiarity with ox and the need to move them.

On the defensive
Norwegian farmers, meanwhile, weren’t happy to hear reports last week that food prices in Norway once again ranked as the highest in Europe, by a wide margin. The farmers, who have a strong political lobby in the country, are constantly defending their subsidy demands and state policies that protect them from foreign competition.

Such was the case over the weekend, with Nils T Bjørke of the farmers’ organization Norges Bondelag writing in newspaper Aftenposten that cost and pay levels in Norway also are high, compared to other countries.

“About half the food we eat is made from Norwegian ingredients, and Norwegian food is produced under Norwegian price levels,” Bjørke wrote.

He also argued that Norwegians don’t use as high a percentage of their income on food as do residents of most other European countries, roughly 11 percent as opposed to 12 percent in Sweden, where average food prices are 40 percent lower than in Norway.

Bjørke also argued that Norwegian farmers “take care of the cultural landscape, create a base for tourism and for service industries.” Tourists, however, have complained once again this year about the high price of eating out and buying food in Norway.

See related story: Nutrition experts upset farm lobby

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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