There were close to 500 workers killed in the agriculture sector in 2012. The fatality rate in this industry is more than 21 per 100,000 full-time equivalent worker, which is the highest fatality rate of any sector. In addition to these fatalities, there were close to 48,500 workers injured in 2011.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are more than 2 million people who are employed in the agricultural industry in the U.S. Those who work and farm are at serious risks for critical injuries, death, work-related lung diseases, cancer, skin diseases, noise-induced hearing loss and even heat exposure.
farm accidents in Alabama are an all-too-common threat during harvest season. The number one cause of death for farmworkers between 1992 and 2009 was tractor overturns. These accidents account for more than 90 fatalities each and every year. Each day, there are close to 250 farm workers who suffer from a serious injury and are forced to take time away from work. About 5 percent of these injuries result in permanent impairment.
Officials with OSHA developed a new emphasis program in 2010 after a record number of work fatalities to help eliminate the risks of accidents involving electrocution hazards, combustible dust explosions, struck by accidents, auger entanglements, falls and engulfment. Tractor accidents on farms cause the highest number of fatalities with tractor overturns, accounting for roughly 45 percent of all tractor fatalities.
Most importantly, we need to make sure that all workers are getting the proper training to complete the job safely. People new to a task should receive adequate information and training to do their work safely and effectively. Depending on the nature of the work, the training may vary from simple instructions provided by their supervisor, to nationally recognized courses providing comprehensive training and accredited qualifications. About half of all farm workers are Hispanic. This means we need to make sure that they’re getting the training they require in a language they can understand, and that’s required by OSHA.
In 2011, the injury rate for agricultural workers was over 40 percent higher than the rate for all workers. More attention needs to be focused on these vulnerable workers, especially during high-volume crop seasons.
You can start by increasing awareness of farming hazards and making a conscious effort to prepare for emergency situations including fires, vehicle accidents, electrical shocks from equipment and wires, and chemical exposures.
And everyone’s at risk. The self-employed proportion of the workforce has steadily increased as overall workforce numbers have declined. The industry is dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), particularly micro businesses, with few formal management structures.
Each Alabama farm with one or more paid farm workers should have a farm safety management plan. All farms with 10 or more gainfully employed farm workers are subject to Occupational Safety and Hazard Act regulations. Federal law requires all employers and businesses to provide a safe working environment for those workers.
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