When most people think of Arizona, deserts and the Grand Canyon are among the first things that come to mind. So it may be surprising to learn that Arizona ranks third in the nation for the production of melons, potatoes and vegetables, and second in the production of lettuce.
Additionally, 90% of all the broccoli consumed by Americans comes either from Arizona or California. In fact, Yuma, Arizona is known as America’s Winter Salad Bowl because of all the lettuce grown there during the winter months.
Agriculture and farming are important for the national and local economies. However, it also ranks as America’s 8th most dangerous profession.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are approximately 100 agricultural workers who suffer some kind of lost-work-time injury every day in the U.S.
One factor that contributes to the high risk of injury in the farming industry is the sheer size of the workforce. In 2018, there were roughly 2,038,000 full-time employees in the agriculture production industry. Additionally, there were another 1.4 to 2.1 million part-time employees hired during harvest times.
Furthermore, according to Industrial Safety & Hygiene News, those working in agriculture are at even more risk of being hurt or killed on the job than firefighters and other first responders, with the majority of injury and/or death being caused by the use of heavy equipment.
In 1990, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) set out to reduce the number of farm-related worker injuries and illnesses by developing an agricultural safety and health program. This program provides support for extramural research, as well as programs at universities in 10 states devoted to preventing illness and injury.
The NIOSH programs study how to keep farmers safe from injury, and also other occupational illnesses such as those caused by:
- Exposure to pesticides
- Hearing loss
- Musculoskeletal disorders
- Pulmonary diseases
Common farming and agriculture injuries
Here are 7 of the most common farm-related injuries:
Overturning heavy machinery and tractors
Even when you know exactly how to operate heavy machinery and tractors common on farms, they can still be both dangerous, unpredictable and hard to handle. The Department of Labor estimates that more than 44% of all farming accidents involve some kind of farm machinery.
Slip and fall accidents are common across many different job sectors and industries. On farms, rather than employees simply falling over office equipment, workers often fall in barns or from machinery.
Many farmers work with hazardous and toxic chemicals during the course of their career. Most often, a farmer’s long-term exposure to pesticides used to keep bugs and other pests from decimating crops can lead to occupation cancers.
Risk of suffocation may seem like a far fetched danger on the farm; however, when large quantities of farm products (grain, soybeans, wheat, etc.) are stored and need to be dispensed, accidents can occur. Additionally, farm buildings are notorious for having poor ventilation.
The majority of farming takes place outside in every kind of weather condition. Hours spent under the blazing sun can easily lead to heat stress. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Heat cramps
- Heart problems
- Heat stroke
Any industry where you work with heavy machinery can put you at greater risk for crush injuries. Farming equipment involves complex gears, chains, and pulleys which can easily catch limbs, fingers and other extremities if the operator isn’t constantly vigilant. This can result in amputations and death.
Of the injury risks noted so far, those involving animals are the lowest on the list. That said, when animal-related injuries occur, it is likely that they will result in a traumatic brain injury.
Arizona farmers and workers’ compensation
According to Arizona law, farm workers have the same rights as other employees to workers’ compensation in the event they’re injured while on the job. Agriculture employers still fall under Arizona’s “no fault” system, meaning they can typically receive medical care and compensation regardless of whether or not the injury was their fault.
Like other industries in Arizona, the financial benefits that farmers can expect from workers’ compensation are generally broken down into 3 categories:
- Medical expenses
- Wage loss and disability
- Death benefits
Any injury that happens in the course and scope of your employment would likely result in your medical expenses being covered and, depending on the severity of your injury, you could also receive compensation for lost income (and income potential).
In Arizona, you’d receive 2/3 of your average monthly salary—up to Arizona’s benefit maximum—in cases of a permanent and total disability.
In the event that a farm worker dies as a result of an accident or occupational illness, their surviving dependents (spouse, children/stepchildren, parents, siblings and/or other dependents) would receive this compensation. Like a permanent and total disability, wrongful death benefits are up to 2/3 of the worker’s average monthly salary, as well as up to $5,000 to cover burial and funeral expenses.
As dangerous a profession as farming can be, it is also an essential industry to our economy. If you or a loved one have been hurt while on the job, contact one of the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at the Law Offices of Robert E. Wisniewski.