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Occupational Health and Safety

Health and safety at work is an area of the social security system in which the trade unions play a special role. In all countries the employees are involved in designing and implementing health and safety at work at the company level. Frequently the trade unions directly perform the tasks of the safety officers.

In the health and safety at work bodies (institutions) the trade unions have a large say in decision-taking. In countries with private insurance systems the trade unions participate at least in prevention measures (e. g. Sweden).

The number of deaths and workers rendered unfit for work (for more than 3 days) by work accidents varies considerably. That may be due to various reasons which need to be analysed in more detail.

The Situation in International Comparison:

Tabelle International Comparison: Occupational Health and Safety

The Situation in Individual European Countries:

AT: Austria

Fatal accidents in agriculture affect mainly small farmers, and to a lesser degree employees as well.

Companies need to have safety officers, large companies must have a company doctor service. Trade union specialists are working as officers in the general accident insurance body.


BE: Belgium

Health and safety at work is integrated in the mandatory welfare insurance system and administrated by the work accidents fund. Employers have to take out insurance for their employees with a registered insurance company or mutual fund.


BG: Bulgaria

(No data available)


CH: Switzerland

Out of 54 industries agriculture holds rank 4 for accident numbers, rank 5 for accident-related absence from work (in agriculture people are 'rarely' ill, and premiums are accordingly low) and rank 7 for accident-related costs (e. g. rehabilitation).

Data for 2005 cf. Table.


CY: Cyprus

(No data available)


CZ: Czech Republic

In 2006 there were 4 fatal accidents in agriculture and forestry, thereof 1 in forestry, and 2,638 work accidents causing longer absence from work (thereof 401 in forestry and 22 in fishery.


DE: Germany

In Germany health and safety at work rules are provided by the governmental occupational safety scheme and by the trade associations. The trade organisations are tri-partite organisations formed by entrepreneurs, small farmers and employees. They are in charge of health and safety in companies. Whereas implementing health and safety measures at work is almost no problem in large companies there are frequent problems in small companies.


DK: Denmark

Qualification certificates are required for forklift truck drivers and for handling pesticides and ammonia.

In 2005 there were 22 fatal accidents in agriculture involving 2 employees.


EE: Estonia

Accident protection in under state control, there is monitoring by inspectors.

(No data on fatal accidents available.)


ES: Spain

In Spain's agriculture there are 30-35 deaths every year. Working time lost by work accidents is 15 % (all employees).


FI: Finland

Statistics do not cover accidents in detail. There is no distinction between farmers and employees. Serious accidents frequently involve older workers. there is a good public health monitoring system. However, these measures are geared to food monitoring rather than to health and safety at work for employees.

In companies employing more than 10 workers the works council elects safety experts, companies with fewer than 10 workers elect assistants.

Anyone handling toxic materials needs to have an adequate qualification certificate.


FR: France

126 deaths caused by fatal accidents and work-related illness (81 fatal accidents, 35 accidents on the way to and from work, 1 death caused by work-related illness) (in 2003). 47,817 employees were absent from work for more than three days following work accidents.

Employees handling pesticides must have a certificate. The trade unions are involved in the work of the regional health and safety agencies and insurance bodies.


GB: United Kingdom

There is a governmental contribution-free (tax-financed) system that insures all employees. Accidents on the way to and from work are usually not covered. The Union exerts its influence in the Agriculture Industry Advisory Committee (AIAC), which promotes prevention at the workplace.


GR: Greece

Number of accidents: cf. Table.


HR: Croatia

No data for agriculture available.


HU: Hungary

Fatal accidents in agriculture in 2006: 16

Number of accidents rendering workers unfit for work for more than 3 days: 1,064 in 2006 (men: 890, women: 174).

In comparison with the other 14 industries agriculture was on rank 6 in 2006.

The most frequent cause of fatal accidents is non-compliance with safety provisions, such as failure to use personal drop-protection equipment, etc.

In Hungary every worker has to undergo a doctor's examination of his fitness for work before taking on a job and in regular intervals thereafter.


IE: Ireland

There is an obligatory accident insurance system. The trade union SIPTU supports the health and safety committees, endeavouring to make workplaces safer and healthier. For accident figures cf. Table.


IS: Iceland

In companies with more than 5 people there is an ombudsman for health and safety at work. Persons handling hazardous substances need special qualification.


IT: Italy

There is a state accident insurance for all industries (INAIL - national insurance institute for work accidents). According to the statistics the number of work accidents is declining. In 2005 there were 66,220 work accidents and 136 deaths caused by agricultural work. Accidents are more frequent with migrant workers.

The trade unions are involved in the companies' health and safety at work systems through the health and safety at work committees (RLS). Every union sends one representative.


LT: Lithuania

Half of all accidents occur during work that is paid per piece. Drinking alcohol at work also increases the frequency of accidents. Number of accidents: cf. Table.


LU: Luxembourg

Agriculture and forestry form one chamber of the accident insurance association.


LV: Latvia

In 2005 there were 11 deaths in agriculture. 100 % of costs are covered after accidents at work and on the way to and from work. The trade unions organise courses in health and safety at work and issue the according licenses/certificates. Every employee has to go to a course, which is paid by the employer. In larger companies there is an unpaid function as inspector for health and safety at work. The person has to pass an exam.


MT: Malta

No data available.


NL: Netherlands

In 2006 there were 5 fatal accidents in agriculture in the Netherlands (thereof 3 involving children). In the Netherlands statistics do not distinguish between work accidents and private accidents. The health and safety at work standards have been softened by the law, which led to a deterioration of accident prevention.

In the companies there are health and safety officers (prevention). They are specially trained.

Any person handling toxic materials needs an according qualification certificate.


NO: Norway

In 2006 there were 14 fatal accidents in the Norwegian agricultural sector.

Companies with more than 10 people must appoint (elect) a safety officer. After being elected the person must provide evidence of 40 qualification hours.

Any person handling toxic materials needs an according qualification certificate.


PL: Poland

In 2005 there were the following accidents in agriculture:

Accidents in individual agriculture: 128 fatal accidents, 20,800 accidents rendering persons unfit for work for more than 3 days.

Accidents in agricultural companies: 14 fatal accidents and 1,277 accidents rendering persons unfit for work for more than 3 days.

In state-run companies one fatal accident and 217 accidents rendering persons unfit for work for more than 3 days.

Agriculture in total: 143 fatal accidents, 22,354 accidents rendering persons unfit for work for a longer time.

Accidents on the way to and from work are not covered by the accident insurance.

The trade union has the legal right to directly oversee and check compliance with the labour legislation and health and safety at work in companies. The trade union co-operates closely with the state Labour Inspectorate and supports voluntary labour inspectors. In addition there are trade union experts for health and safety at work in companies with more than 250 employees.


PT: Portugal

The health and safety at work situation in the agricultural sector is improving, as the decreasing accident numbers show. The trade union is a participant in tri-partite activities.


RO: Romania

In 2005 there were 37 deaths caused by accidents in agriculture. 192 workers were rendered unfit for work for more than 3 days by work accidents. The trade unions have in-company experts for health and safety at work.


SE: Sweden

There were 246 fatal accidents in Sweden in 2005, thereof three in agriculture. The percentage of young people, mainly young women, in work accidents is remarkable.

Any person handling toxic materials needs an according qualification certificate.


SI: Slovenia

On average there are 3 deaths caused by work accidents in agriculture.

Special qualification certificates are required for handling pesticides and for livestock breeding.


SK: Slovakia

A worker representative is in charge of health and safety at work in the company. For accidents refer to Table.


TR: Turkey

In 2005 there were 22 deaths in agriculture in Turkey.