Agriculture is a key component of Indiana’s economy, contributing $37.9 billion to the state’s economy in 2011, according to Indiana University. Agriculture production supports nearly 190,000 Hoosier jobs, 103,000 of which are directly involved in crop production and processing.
Farming has a higher-than-average injury and illness rate. Each year, according to the Indiana Rural Safety and Health Council, an estimated 1 out of every 9 Indiana farm families experiences an injury requiring medical attention, and between 20 and 25 members of farm families die as the result of farm work-related injuries.
A farmer who employs one or more persons has the legal responsibility to assure safe and healthful working conditions under the William-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Agriculture employers have the general duty to supply employees with a workplace free from all recognized hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious harm to employees. There are also specific health and safety regulations enforced by OSHA for farms which employ more than 10 people.
Indiana farm injury lawyer Mike Stephenson, of McNeely Stephenson, has been helping injured Hoosiers for more than 30 years. This includes folks who were injured in farm accidents, car and truck accidents, and other workplace accidents. If you have been hurt while on the job in the Indiana agriculture industry, call Mike Stephenson at 855-206-2555 for a free consultation.
What are some of the dangers inherent in farm work?
Tractor accidents are the most common cause of farm injuries. When Purdue University analyzed 20 years of data, they found that tractor accidents accounted for 47% of Indiana farming fatalities, most frequently occurring because of a tractor upset or rollover. The most effective way to prevent tractor overturn deaths is the use of Roll-Over Protective Structures (ROPS), but, nationally, only about half of all tractors used on farms are so equipped.
The OSHA roll-over protection standard (ROPS) for larger farming operations requires that all tractors with more than 20 horsepower manufactured after October 1976 must be equipped with a roll-over protective structure. Low-profile tractors used in orchards, barns, hop yards and green-houses are exempt from the standard when use of the roll-over protective structure would substantially interfere with normal operations. Also exempt are tractors using loaders, cornpickers, and other such attachments when ROPS would interfere with their operation. As soon as that use is not necessary, however, the ROPS must be returned to the tractor. Farm operations which are subject to OSHA regulation must provide annual training to every employee about safe tractor operation.
Other types of fatal injuries involving tractors are caused by power takeoff (PTO) entanglements, contact with overhead electrical wires, poor maintenance and road collisions. In 2012, there were nine Indiana fatalities involving collisions between motor vehicles and agricultural equipment, including Amish buggies and pony carts.
Respiratory disease affects farmers and farmworkers at a higher rate than other workers. Some of the disorders associated with exposure to airborne dusts in farming are hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP), organic dust toxic syndrome (ODTS), chronic bronchitis (CB), acute pulmonary symptoms (APS), asthma, and mucous membrane irritation (MMI). These are caused by antigens found in silage, in spoiled hay and grain and in swine confinement facilities.
Exposure to pesticides can result in acute and chronic toxic reactions. Manufacturers of these frequently used farm chemicals have a duty to warn the user about proper application techniques and the hazards the products present. Likewise, agricultural operators have a duty to provide adequate training and safety gear to those farm workers who are involved in applying the chemicals.
Failure to maintain equipment can lead to farm injuries and fatalities. Pushed by the constraints of weather and the market, a farmer may decide to continue using a piece of equipment that is not functioning properly, putting off necessary repairs that could save a worker’s life but would have a negative effect on profits.
What types of injuries are common in farm accidents?
Even when a farm accident doesn’t cause a death, it can cause severe injuries. Purdue University’s analysis of 2012 farm accidents noted amputations, head, and spinal cord injuries and accidents requiring the use of medical helicopters for transport to a trauma center. These types of serious injury can result in disability and loss of earning capacity, huge medical and rehabilitation expenses, and unending adjustments for a farm worker’s family.
What can an injured farm worker do?
A person who was injured on an Indiana farm because of the negligence of the farm operator, lack of training or safety supplies, or failure to comply with governmental regulations should contact Indiana farm injury lawyer Mike Stephenson. If the injury resulted from machinery that was dangerously designed or manufactured, or from toxic chemicals, Mike Stephenson will seek justice from the company that produced it.
Victims of personal injury may be entitled to receive compensation for their medical expenses (both past and future), loss of income, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.