Many agricultural employers in North Carolina are exempt from rules mandating workers' compensation coverage. This puts farmworkers in a risky situation. In the event of an on-the-job injury or illness, a farmworker does not necessarily have the same recourse a worker in a non-agricultural field follows.
Working on a farm is dangerous. Not only do specialized machines require skilled training, use, and maintenance to avoid injuries - workers can be exposed to harmful chemicals and pesticides. North Carolina farmworkers produce almost one-fifth of the entire state's income. The industry is tremendous and affects the lives of more than 150,000 documented workers and their families, plus those of undocumented seasonal workers and their families.
Here are a few facts our attorneys gathered to help show how serious farmworker safety is:
- The #1 segment of North Carolina's agricultural industry is the poultry industry. The United States Department of Agriculture caps poultry processing speeds at 140 birds per minute. This stresses workers in several ways. One, the pressure of time. Two, repetitive movements can contribute to long-term physical impairments. Three, employees often work very close together and that poses a risk of slipping with a tool, making an error, or another type of accident that could cause injury.
- Another big agricultural industry in our state is tobacco. Pesticide exposure is not the only chemical risk workers need to be concerned about when working around tobacco. According to the North Carolina Farmworker Institute, "In just one day, workers can absorb the amount of nicotine found in 36 cigarettes."
- Exposure to on-the-job irritants affects almost all workers on farms in North Carolina. The Student Action With Farmworkers organization, a group dedicated to advocacy for farmworker rights, surveyed North Carolina farmworkers and found eight out of ten had skin disease.
Just because many employees in agriculture across our state don't have the benefits of being protected by workers' comp doesn't mean they have no rights. Factories, farms, and other industry facilities must maintain federal standards. If a history of inspection reports reveals facility violations, this might be used as evidence of a negligent employer. The United States Department of Agriculture, the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and other agencies enforce certain requirements that employers must meet.
Let us know if you or someone you care about works on a farm and was hurt. Our attorneys provide no-cost consultations and we have an entire department dedicated to work injuries. Call 877-BRENT-ADAMS or schedule a consult with an attorney.