Agricultural workers are an integral part of our food system. They play an important role in maintaining the plants and livestock that end up on our plates at every meal. Unfortunately, many states don’t require employers to provide agricultural workers the same workers’ compensation coverage as other employees. In fact, only a handful of jurisdictions cover medical expenses and offer disability benefits to farm workers who are hurt on the job. The good news is that California is one of them.
In California, agricultural workers are entitled to the same workers’ comp benefits as other eligible employees – including undocumented workers. The name of an employer’s insurer must be posted at the jobsite, along with instructions on how to file a workers’ comp claim. Here’s a look at some of the common workplace injuries among farm workers and how these employees can take action to collect the benefits they need.
Workplace Injuries Among Agricultural Workers
Farm workers are exposed to numerous health hazards on the job. In fact, agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries in the nation. Agricultural workers often work long, hot days in fields where heavy farm machinery and pesticides could easily lead to injury or illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 417 farmers and farm workers died from a work-related injury in 2016.
The following are some of the most common injuries among agricultural workers:
Sprains and strains
Farm labor includes a lot of repetitive reaching, bending, and lifting, which can lead to a sprain or strain. According to the CDC, 50 percent of all farm worker injuries were classified as a sprain or strain between 2008 and 2010.
Crushed between objects
Farm workers can be seriously injured and disfigured or even killed if they are caught in agriculture machinery such as grain augers or power take-off (PTO) shafts.
Agricultural workers can become trapped in grain bins or silos without access to oxygen, resulting in suffocation.
Tractor overturn deaths
Transportation incidents, including tractor overturns, are cited the leading cause of death in the agriculture industry.
Acute and chronic illness
Farm workers are at risk for pesticide poisoning if exposed to chemicals sprayed on crops. Acute poisoning can present as vomiting, dizziness, and skin rash. Long-term exposure may lead to cancer, asthma, allergies, and birth defects.
Farm workers who work in extreme temperatures and do not drink enough water or take breaks in the shade may suffer heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Workers’ Compensation for Agricultural Workers
Despite farm labor being one of the most hazardous jobs in America, it’s not always easy for agricultural workers to collect workers’ comp benefits. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is that many employers do not carry workers’ comp insurance even though they are legally required to do so. In these circumstances, injured farm workers would need to apply for benefits from the Uninsured Employers Benefits Trust Fund (UEBTF).
Second, California has a large population of undocumented immigrants – particularly in the agriculture industry. While undocumented workers are covered by workers’ compensation, many fear that notifying their employers of an injury will result in retaliation, such as being fired. Therefore, many undocumented workers suffer through their injuries or go into debt paying for their medical expenses out of pocket.
Farm workers have a right to workers’ compensation
California is one of the few states where agricultural workers are granted the same right to workers’ compensation as other eligible employees. However, securing medical and disability benefits isn’t always as easy as it should be. At the Law Office of Gerald Brody & Associates, we specialize in helping injured farm workers navigate the workers’ compensation system and collect the benefits they need to recover and get back to work.
Call us today to schedule your free consultation at (619) 528-9800.