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Accid Anal Prev. 2010 Nov;42(6):1729-35. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2010.04.013. Epub 2010 Jun 1.

Accident rates and types among self-employed private forest owners.

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Department of Forest Resource Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SE-901 83 Umeå, Sweden.


Half of all Swedish forests are owned by private individuals, and at least 215,000 people work in these privately owned forest holdings. However, only lethal accidents are systematically monitored among self-employed forest workers. Therefore, data from the registries of the Swedish Work Environment Authority, the Labor Insurance Organization and the regional University Hospital in Umeå were gathered to allow us to perform a more in-depth assessment of the rate and types of accidents that occurred among private forest owners. We found large differences between the registries in the type and number of accidents that were reported. We encountered difficulties in defining "self-employed forest worker" and also in determining whether the accidents that did occur happened during work or leisure time. Consequently, the estimates for the accident rate that we obtained varied from 32 to > or = 4300 injured persons per year in Sweden, depending on the registry that was consulted, the definition of the sample population that was used, and the accident severity definition that was employed. Nevertheless, the different registries gave a consistent picture of the types of accidents that occur while individuals are participating in self-employed forestry work. Severe accidents were relatively common, as self-employed forestry work fatalities constituted 7% of the total number of fatalities in the work authority registry. Falling trees were associated with many of these fatal accidents as well as with accidents that resulted in severe non-fatal injuries. Thus, unsafe work methods appeared more related to the occurrence of an accident than the equipment that was being used at the time of the accident (e.g., a chainsaw). Improvement of the workers' skills should therefore be considered to be an important prevention measure that should be undertaken in this field. The challenges in improving the safety in these smallest of companies, which fall somewhere between the purview of occupational and consumer safety, are exemplified and discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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