The agriculture industry is one of the most crucial sectors in the United States, providing food and other critical agricultural products to communities all over the country. People working in the agriculture sector have some of the most physically demanding jobs in existence. They experience risk in terms of the dangers posed by the industry, the nature of the work they perform every day, and the possible toll such work can take on the body over time.
At English, Lloyd & Armenta, our team provides comprehensive legal representation to California employees who suffer injuries at work, including injuries experienced while working in the agriculture industry. We understand the unique risk factors facing employees at all levels of the agriculture industry and feel it is important for all employees to know these risks as well as their legal options after suffering injuries at work. Review the following list of the biggest dangers facing members of the agriculture industry so you can take steps to avoid injury.
Working in agriculture may require operating machinery that is much larger than conventional vehicles, navigating large warehouses, or working with tall trees. Falling can result in many injuries, from traumatic brain damage to broken bones and internal organ injuries. Depending on the height of the fall, a fall incident can also be fatal. All agricultural employees should take appropriate safety precautions whenever they must perform any work that involves a falling risk, and it is the responsibility of the employer to provide the necessary safety equipment as well as a reasonably safe workplace.
Working in agriculture often involves working around loud machinery. Over time, this can result in hearing loss and permanent disability. It is also possible to develop hearing loss from singular incidents, such as nearby explosions and other sudden, loud noises. When an agriculture industry employee suffers hearing loss from work, they may not be able to safely continue working in the industry. Hearing loss can also make it harder for them to find work outside of the agriculture industry.
Agriculture work often involves working around an assortment of organic and inorganic dusts, organic toxins, chemicals, and other substances that can result in skin injury. It is also possible for an employee who works outside for long hours to develop skin disease or even skin cancer from daily exposure to sunlight.
Strains, Sprains, and Back Injuries
Agricultural work often involves repetitive motions and heavy lifting. As a result, sprains and strains are some of the most frequently reported injuries in the agriculture industry. Back injuries are also common while performing agricultural work. Some employees may develop chronic back pain from work or could suffer acute back injuries from lifting and carrying heavy objects. As a result, it is vital for all agriculture industry employees to remember they have the right to file for workers’ compensation for degenerative conditions and injuries from repetitive motions in addition to acute injuries from falls, tractor accidents, and other specific incidents.
Spending too much time in the sun can not only lead to skin diseases and skin cancer, but can also cause acute heat injuries. Heatstroke, for example, can be fatal without immediate medical intervention. All agriculture industry employees should stay hydrated and take breaks whenever possible, preferably in the shade. If you work in agriculture and begin feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or display any other symptoms of heat injury, notify your supervisor immediately.
The agriculture industry relies on the use of various chemicals, from pesticides and fertilizers to cleaning agents and other chemicals—some of which are extremely hazardous to human health. If you must use any kind of chemical while working in the agriculture industry, you must follow all applicable safety instructions at all times and report any accidental spills to your supervisor immediately should they occur. In addition, every chemical product must include appropriate safety warnings, instructions for use, and safety information for use in the event of accidental exposure. If a chemical product does not include this information, you may have grounds for a product liability claim against the manufacturer should the product injure you or cause an illness.
Tractors are used in virtually every commercial agriculture operation in the United States. While most modern tractors include various safety features like Rollover Protection Structures and seatbelts, older tractors may not have these safety features. Tractors must also navigate uneven terrain, and an unseen divot or ditch could potentially cause a serious accident. In addition, many tractors have moving parts that connect and supply power to hauled machinery. Entanglement can occur if an employee gets too close to these moving parts and their clothing becomes caught.
Because of these risks, tractors are one of the leading causes of injuries in the agriculture industry. Agriculture industry employers must ensure the tractors their employees use are safe and receive routine inspections and maintenance. Employers must also ensure that employees using tractors have appropriate training and experience to do so.
Heavy Equipment Accidents
Agriculture often requires the use of heavy equipment, such as combines, front-end loaders, harvesting vehicles, forklifts, and heavy-duty tractors. Other machinery, including conveyor systems, shipping vehicles, electronic shelving systems, and presses, can potentially cause severe or fatal injuries. All agriculture industry employers must ensure all machinery is carefully maintained and checked regularly for safety issues. Employers should also ensure that any employees who use machinery have the appropriate training to do so. However, many of these machines continue to pose safety risks, even for experienced users.
Working outside in a commercial agriculture operation can mean near-constant exposure to organic and inorganic dusts, allergens, pollen, mold spores, and other substances that can cause respiratory harm. Some employees with allergies and asthma may be highly susceptible to suffering the ill effects of these substances and may develop medical conditions from overexposure. Even employees who do not have any preexisting respiratory difficulties can potentially experience adverse medical conditions from constant exposure to particles or substances. Employers should provide personal protective equipment for use whenever there is any risk of exposure.
Grain Storage Accidents
Many agricultural operations rely on large storage containers and silos to store grains after harvesting. In some situations, employees may need to enter these containers and face extreme risks when they do so. Grain at the top of a silo can harden into a crust that does not move when grain is extracted from beneath it, causing those who walk on the crust to risk tumbling into the silo itself. Grain containers and silos also pose a risk of engulfment and suffocation when an employee sinks into the shifting grain pile, and it is often very difficult to remove a person from this hazard.
Additionally, grain dust inside the silo diminishes air quality and there may be minimal breathable air inside of these containers. Fine particles in the air also pose an explosion risk. Any small spark can potentially cause particles to ignite in midair, setting off a chain reaction of tiny fires that can very quickly escalate into a larger explosion.
Wildlife and Livestock-Related Injuries
Some agriculture operations involve livestock such as hogs, cattle, sheep, and chickens. In addition, all outdoor agricultural operations involve some level of exposure to insects and wild animals, some of which can be dangerous to humans. Some insects, namely mosquitoes, can carry infectious diseases, and some wild animals can be incredibly dangerous to agriculture industry employees. Employers should take appropriate precautions against known wildlife dangers around their areas of operation. They must also ensure employees working with livestock animals can do so safely.
What to Do If You Are Injured in the Agriculture Industry
If you work in the agriculture industry in California and suffer any type of injury at work, it is vital to know your legal options for recovery. However, your first concern after any workplace injury should be your health and safety. Report your injury to your supervisor immediately and seek appropriate medical care. Once you are stable, you can begin the process of filing a workers’ compensation claim.
California state law requires all employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance, so a workers’ compensation claim is often the first step you must take toward recovering your losses from an agriculture industry injury. At English, Lloyd & Armenta, we have helped many clients successfully pursue workers’ compensation claims.
Explore Your Recovery Options with a California Agriculture Injury Lawyer
When workers’ compensation is not enough to fully cover a client’s losses, we can help them explore other potential avenues of recovery. While the California workers’ compensation system insulates employers from legal actions from injured employees, your claim may not yield full compensation for your losses. If a third party, such as a product manufacturer, subcontractor, or member of the public somehow caused or contributed to your injury, you may have grounds for a civil claim to recover your losses.
If you have sustained medical expenses, lost income, and other damages and workers’ compensation is not enough to fully cover your losses, we can help. Contact English Lloyd & Armenta today to schedule a consultation with our team after an agriculture industry injury and we will let you know how our team can assist you.