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OSHA unable to investigate worker deaths on small farms

| Jun 11, 2020 | workers' compensation

The farming industry is among the deadliest in the nation, and Arizona residents should know that a great many of the deaths are preventable. However, one cannot know for sure when it comes to deaths on small farms because OSHA does not investigate these fatalities. It all goes back to a rider that Congress attached to OSHA’s budget back in 1976; it exempts all farms with 10 or fewer employees from OSHA inspections and safety rule enforcement.

This means that small farm owners cannot be held responsible for injuries and deaths on their property. Workers, for their part, have virtually no safety rights. OSHA, for its part, appears not to oppose this state of things. Together with the American Farm Bureau Federation, it criticized the Obama Administration back in 2013 when it cited a small Nebraska farm for safety violations.

A couple attempts at change have been made. In 1999, a Rhode Island senator proposed an amendment to let OSHA investigate the cause of death of minors on small farms. However, the amendment would not have given OSHA the authority to penalize small farms. The senator withdrew the bill before it was voted on. In 2019, a representative from Connecticut tried unsuccessfully to remove the rider, pointing out how it affects a disproportionate amount of racial minorities.

Those who are injured on a farm may want to see a lawyer about whether they can file a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ comp benefits may cover a percentage of the wages they lost during their physical recovery and all the expenses relating to medical care, including the cost of prescription medications and travel to and from the hospital. Such benefits can be denied on certain grounds, though, which means that victims would then have to mount an appeal. A lawyer may assist with this and other steps.

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