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OSHA unable to investigate small farm injuries or deaths

Workers in New Jersey and across the U.S. may be familiar with the OSHA standards that govern the industry they are in. Usually, OSHA can inspect workplaces and enforce its standards, but this is not so for small farms. In 1976, Congress attached a rider to OSHA’s budget that exempted, and continues to exempt, farms with 10 or fewer employees from inspections and enforcement.

This basically means that small farm owners can never be held liable when their workers are injured or killed. The workers, for their part, have no safety rights whatsoever. It’s a situation that has been decried by many since farming is a deadly industry.

Several attempts have been made to change this, but to no avail. In 1999, a senator proposed, and then withdrew, an amendment that would have allowed OSHA to investigate into the death of minors on small farms. The problem with this proposal was that it would not have given OSHA the authority to impose penalties. Then, in 2019, a representative tried to remove the rider altogether.

When the Obama administration cited a small farm in Nebraska for safety violations in 2013, the move was criticized not just by the American Farm Bureau Federation but also by OSHA itself. It remains to be seen what can be done to improve farming safety.

Under workers’ compensation law, injured employees can receive benefits that cover their medical expenses and a portion of their lost wages. Benefits pay also cover expenses related to a temporary or permanent disability. In the case of those who are fatally injured, the family may receive death benefits, which cover, among other things, burial expenses and the cost of any pre-death medical treatments. The filing process can be complicated, so it may be wise to enlist legal help.

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