Farmworkers at Risk

Posted on October 11, 2019

Each year, America’s farmworkers experience injuries and illnesses caused by faulty farm equipment, toxic pesticides, unsanitary conditions, and extreme weather conditions. Alarmingly, many agricultural workers are not protected under workers’ compensation laws. When farmworkers are injured on the job, however, other options may be available to help them recover lost wages, medical bills, and sometimes pain and suffering.

Farmworkers Face Health and Safety Risks

Agriculture is one of the country’s most hazardous industries. It consistently ranks among the most dangerous in the U.S., with a work-related fatality rate of 21.4 deaths per 100,000 workers. Farmworkers work in dangerous weather conditions. They work around dangerous tools and machinery, pesticides, and violent coworkers. And many perform heavy physical labor on a daily basis. As a result, they often suffer severe, even deadly injuries.

Field Workers

Field workers are responsible for planting and harvesting crops. Most work is done in spring and summer months when temperatures soar into the triple digits. With little shade, they often experience dizziness, nausea, dehydration, and heat exhaustion. Heatstroke is the leading cause of death for field workers.

Planting and harvesting crops involve hours of lifting heavy buckets filled with produce, operating tractors and tillers, and hand-picking crops. Field workers have a high rate of repetitive stress injuries, as well as musculoskeletal disorders from hard labor.

Fertilizers and pesticides contain toxic chemicals that put field workers at high risk for respiratory illnesses, blood diseases, and cancer. Roundup Weedkiller is shown to cause Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.

Factory Farm Workers

Factory farms are concentrated animal feeding operations that expose workers to dangerous gases such as ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, methane, and toxic dust. Factory farm workers experience respiratory illnesses like bronchitis and asthma. Chronic exposure to hydrogen sulfide can cause heart problems and brain damage. High ammonia levels can cause asphyxiation. Even low-level exposure can be deadly to workers.

There are currently over one million farmworkers in America. Hundreds of thousands are not covered by workers’ compensation. As a result, illnesses and injuries often go untreated because workers can’t afford to pay out of pocket. When workers’ compensation insurance coverage is not available, injured farmworkers may be able to recover damages by filing personal injury lawsuits against their employer or other responsible parties. If defective equipment caused the injury, victims can file products liability claims against manufacturers.