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OSHA cannot investigate small farm worker injuries or deaths

| Jun 4, 2020 | Blog, Workers' Compensation |

Many employers in New Jersey know what it can be like to have OSHA inspect their workplace and enforce its safety regulations, oftentimes in the form of penalties. Strangely enough, though, small farm owners are exempt from all of this. This is due to a rider that Congress attached to OSHA’s budget in 1976; it exempts farms with 10 employees or fewer from inspections and safety enforcement.

In effect, this means that small farm owners cannot be held liable for worker injuries or fatalities even when it is clear that the incident could have been prevented. Workers, then, are stripped of any safety rights. This is especially concerning because the farming industry, abounding with heavy machinery, is a dangerous one.

In 2019, there was an attempt made to remove the rider, but it was unsuccessful. According to the representative who made this attempt, the rider is affecting racial and ethnic minorities. Just over three-fourths of farm workers identify as Latino or Hispanic.

Two decades earlier, a senator proposed a bill that would have given OSHA permission to at least investigate the deaths of minors on small farms, but he withdrew the proposal when he saw that it would fail anyway. The amendment would not have allowed OSHA to penalize the farm owners.

Under workers’ compensation law, employees who are hurt on the job can be eligible for benefits, which provide wage replacement and cover all medical expenses, among other things. Families of a fatally injured worker may receive death benefits. They may have their claim denied by their employer, though, which would necessitate the filing of an appeal. To be guided through the complexities, those who intend to file may want a lawyer by their side. The lawyer may also explain at what times it would be advisable to settle.

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