It’s no secret that workers in the agricultural industry have some of the most dangerous professions out there. According to the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) CDC, nearly 100 workers are at risk of suffering a lost-work-time injury every day. There are hundreds of thousands of workers in the field throughout the country making a living, and a significant portion of them are in California.
However, the industry might be more hazardous than most of the nation realizes. A recent report by the nonprofit organization called FairWarning reveals that there are many farms out there that do not receive proper safety inspections as the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is barred from inspecting them. Californian farmers and their families should be aware of how these investigations work in our state to know who they can rely on if there is a severe injury or fatality in the workplace.
Small farms are small on safety
OSHA typically steps in to investigate when there is a workplace fatality and thoroughly examines the situation for months until they determine the cause of death and potentially fine the company for negligence. However, Congress issued a clause that prohibits them from investigating small family farms that have 10 or less non-family workers back in 1976. As the article points out, this is especially problematic given that over 90 percent of farms in the U.S. meet this criterion.
Despite the thousands of workers that died on small farms in the last four decades, these regulations still haven’t changed. Additionally, this also means that OSHA cannot give proper safety inspections to these farms before operations and point out any potential machine malfunctions that require attention. With no investigation to the workplace prior to or after a worker’s death, the family would struggle to hold the employer liable when trying to get workers’ compensation.
Where does California stand?
This news would undoubtedly shake up families featuring workers that operate on small farms here, but California has a distinct advantage over most of the other states. They are only one out of three states that allow for state job safety agencies to regularly inspect small farms for any safety hazards. As long as the agency doesn’t use any federal funding like OSHA does, they can be used to inspect farm equipment and the scene of an accident.
Unsurprisingly, they found that California has much lower fatality rates than the majority of the nation. Despite the Golden state having much more farmers, land and seasons than most of the country, it is one of the safer states thanks to these inspections. Whether or not Congress’ ban on OSHA inspecting smaller farms is lifted remains to be seen, but for now, many California farm workers can rest a little easier knowing that accidents will be more inspected here than in a farm in Michigan. If an injury investigation reveals a coworker or faulty equipment to be liable, then the worker could seek legal assistance to acquire potential compensation.