Oregon farm worker injury lawyers have noted a sharp decline in the number of accidents on farms, and particularly those involving the under-20 age group.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released figures to show the number of young workers injured in farm accidents has fallen again, and experts believe the increased focus on safety and higher levels of training for farm employees dealing with dangerous machinery, tools and chemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides has contributed to the overall decline in farm injuries.
The USDA report is considered the most thorough and definitive in the agricultural sector. Facts are obtained directly from the farmers themselves through a comprehensive survey which includes questions regarding injuries to both family members and hired employees.
The most recent set of figures, which are compiled every three years, shows that:
- A total of 3,191 non-fatal injuries involving farm workers under the age of 20 occurred on farms in 2009, which is the most recent year for which statistics are available
- In 2006, the total number of non-fatal injuries sustained on American farms by workers under the age of 20 was 4,964. The 2009 figure, therefore, represents a 36 percent decrease in injuries.
- The farm is still one of the most dangerous places, statistically speaking, for young people to work.
Further changes are being considered
With the improvement in safety levels, a number of farm groups are questioning whether recent proposals from the Obama administration regarding even more stringent farm safety measures are necessary. Opponents of the proposed regulations are using the USDA report to show that the industry is looking after itself.
Oregon farm worker injury lawyers point out that there have been no serious changes in the laws surrounding children working on farms for more than 40 years. Now, the Department of Labor is considering implementing the following regulations:
- Children aged 15 and under, including family members of the farm’s owner, would be banned from driving farm equipment.
- No children under the age of 16 would be allowed to work in tobacco fields.
- Grain elevators would no longer be able to employ workers under the age of 18.
- Livestock feed yards would also be prevented from hiring people aged 17 and younger.
Large scale opposition
From September 1, 2011, to December 1, 2011, the Department of Labor invited public comment on the proposed changes. More than 10,000 messages were received, and very few were supportive of the new regulations.
Not surprisingly, owners of family farms were among the fiercest opponents of the new regulations. They said the proposed laws would seriously disrupt the traditions and viability of family farming, and they feel the new regulations go too far.
In light of these objections, the Labor Department, which is due to make a final decision on the proposed legislation, decided in February to call for a new round of comments. They specifically want input on a possible exemption which could be built into the new statutes; one that would allow children on family farms to continue working for their parents.
Opponents of the new laws welcomed the call for greater input and view the move as a strong sign the Department of Labor is reconsidering the proposed new legislation.
One such opponent of the new measures is National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson. He points to the results of the USDA survey on farm injuries and says the most recent figures suggest “the numbers are trending in the right direction.” He went on to say the improvement in farm safety numbers had convinced lawmakers to have a rethink and that “…the Department of Labor was well advised to back off a little and rethink some of these provisions.”
While the Department of Labor didn’t respond directly to Johnson’s comments, they previously said they had decided to introduce the more stringent regulations because laws relating to farm work had not kept pace with regulations designed to protect younger workers in non-agricultural jobs.
Without any doubt, a farm is still a very dangerous place for anyone to work, whether a youth or an adult. Farm machinery is large and very powerful. Toxic pesticides and herbicides require careful handling, and every year, there are hundreds of people injured on Oregon farms. If you are employed on a farm, and you have been injured because proper safety measures weren’t introduced or applied, you should give serious consideration to contacting a reputable Oregon farm worker injury attorney for a free consultation. They can advise you of your rights under the law, and they can also give you an expert opinion as to the advisability of proceeding with a personal injury claim. If you decide to go ahead, they will steer you through the entire process, from beginning to end.