The world owes a lot to farmers. Most of us get our fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat from commercial farms and rely on these businesses to keep our favorite restaurants and bars stocked with food. Though they are essential to our economy’s very structure, many people don’t consider how challenging and dangerous farming can be. It’s a full-time commitment and requires an incredible amount of motivation and responsibility. Because farmers often don’t get to take breaks, and because the work is so difficult, it’s not uncommon for farming accidents to happen. These accidents can result from equipment, animals, weather, work-related health conditions, and a host of other situations. Though many of us likely don’t think about it, the cost to get us our food is incredibly high, and, for some farmers, it may take their lives.
Farm Accident Rates Higher Than Other Industries
Compared to most other workplace accidents, the rate of farm accidents is staggering. More than 30 percent of farmers experience a workplace accident or injury per year, far higher than most other industries. Between 2008 and 2010, half of all farmworkers experienced a strain or sprain of some kind while working in the fields. Though farm equipment has certainly helped the speed of gathering crops, the reality is that for many farmhands, there is the requirement of repeatedly picking a crop day in and day out. This kind of work can easily cause repetitive motion injuries and a host of other health problems. All of this is to say that farming is hazardous work. Unfortunately, the industry does not often have the policies and infrastructure to properly deal with the injuries that occur.
Common Types of Farm Accidents and Hazards
Farm accidents can happen in myriad ways and situations. There is truly no one summary of workplace accidents for farmers. However, several injuries are most common in the industry and affect workers most regularly.
Heavy Equipment Accidents
Heavy equipment accidents are by far the most common accidents that happen in farming. Tractors, plows, and other machinery are large and heavy and often require a lot of training to operate properly. Tractors tip over more easily than many people imagine, and tractors are involved in approximately 44 percent of farming accidents. Perhaps the most baffling aspect of this is that most tractors do not include seatbelts. Though new models often do, tractors are commonly passed down and used for a long time. This means that many farmers are using old equipment that isn’t up to modern safety standards.
Suffocation and Asphyxiation Accidents
The grains that make our bread and pastries present a significant threat to farmers. Silos and other grain storage facilities have incredibly poor ventilation. This is, in part, due to the nature of the crop and how it needs to be stored. However, grains such as wheat and soybeans produce a fine powder that can make it difficult to breathe. As if that’s not terrifying enough, silos also present the opportunity for farmworkers to fall into the grain. Because silos can hold an incredible amount of grain, it’s pretty common for farmers to fall into the grains and suffocate as a result. If no one is around when this happens, the individual can easily perish.
Many commercial farms employ pesticides to keep bugs and animals from eating the crops. Though pesticides are not good for anyone to ingest, by the time we receive our produce and wash it properly, it is generally safe for us to consume. For farmers, these pesticides can’t be easily washed away. The product is often sprayed liberally onto crops using large machines and distribution methods. The chemicals linger in the air for a long time and are easily inhaled during the workday. During harvesting, these same chemicals come in contact with the skin, causing further exposure. Pesticide exposure can cause rashes, breathing issues, vomiting, and long-term lung issues.
Heatstroke, dehydration, UV poisoning, and eye damage are related to the long days that farmers spend in the sun. While many farmers drink lots of water, the work is taxing on the body. The summer heat can become lethal and lead to health crises or cause workplace mistakes to happen.
Many of us are often excited to see cows, horses, and sheep roaming around in their pastures. Though these animals are certainly cute, they can be dangerous to the farmers who care for them. It’s easy for a horse to spook or a cow to become agitated and kick whoever is nearby. The unpredictability of these animals regularly leads to severe injuries and accidents.
Rules and Regulations
The wide array of dangers present on a farm may have many wondering if there are ways to help make farms safer for workers. This is a somewhat complicated topic to address. Farms are all very different, and regulations that may work for one farm likely won’t work for another. Because farms are primarily self-contained and located far from major cities and government offices, it’s difficult to enforce safety measures. Some farmworkers are undocumented, meaning that injuries are not reported or handled for fear of deportation. However, these situations do not mean that there have not been attempts to create safe environments for workers. The government has implemented several basic safety standards to keep farmworkers safe while working. Some rules include standards for:
- Handling pesticides
- Informing workers of OSHA standards
- Communicating workplace hazards to workers
- Meeting basic structural standards for employee areas
These standards are very general, and the application of them is easy to mess up. In addition to this, there are many exemptions available to these standards, meaning that far fewer workers are protected than lawmakers had hoped. All in all, farms are dangerous for workers.
Though the federal standards are relatively lax when it comes to safety standards on the farm, there are ways to seek compensation if you are injured on a farm. Just like any workplace accident, a significant investigation will likely be done. However, this doesn’t mean that justice can’t be served for a preventable farm accident. Here are some situations in which a farm worker can seek compensation:
- An accident or injury that was caused by negligence. If a worker suffers from another farm worker’s negligence or illegal activity, there is grounds for compensation. For example, if a worker was operating farm machinery while drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana and injures another worker, the injured may be able to receive workers’ compensation.
- When illegal or unsafe operating systems result in injury. Lots of farm equipment requires practice and a special license to operate. These machines need to be handled in a specific way to minimize risk. If a worker is asked to run a machine in an unsafe manner, anyone injured would be able to press charges.
- Defective equipment caused an injury. Just as restaurants and stores are required to keep facilities up to code, farmers have the obligation of keeping gear safe and up to date. Failing to do so can cause injury, the victim of which would be eligible for compensation.
- Accidental death. If a death occurs because of any of the above situations or for a preventable reason, the family of the deceased is within its rights to seek compensation for their loved one’s lost wages, funeral expenses, and loss of future income.
Though working on a farm presents a unique set of challenges, employees still have the same rights as workers in any other industry. The difficulty lies in implementing regulations and standards. However, this doesn’t mean that injuries from farm work can legally go without financial and medical assistance.
English, Lloyd, and Armenta
Farm injury and accident cases are complicated and often leave workers feeling discouraged. Most farm insurance companies will do whatever they can to avoid paying for medical care. This is why you need an experienced attorney on your side in the case of a farm accident. Your attorney will be able to navigate the complicated, predatory insurance system and ensure that you receive a settlement that is reflective of your suffering. At English, Lloyd, and Armenta, we know that farm laws and regulations are a relatively niche area of law. We’ve devoted extensive time and resources fighting for farmworkers, and we understand the system they’re working against. We can help you with your farm accident or injury case and have the experience to win you what you deserve.
We’re Serious About Farming Accidents
As with any personal injury case, we take farm injuries and accidents exceptionally seriously. Though we have done these cases hundreds of times before, we know that you are likely going through the process for the first time, which is why we infuse every client interaction with compassion, patience, and understanding.
Farm injury cases are time-sensitive, and it’s best to begin the process as soon as you can. For the best worker representation in the Coachella Valley, contact English, Lloyd, and Armenta today.