Mechanical Beasts of Burden: the Risks of Farm Labor

September 3, 2014 | By R. Brendan Dummigan of Pickett Dummigan LLP

According to government surveys, farmers make up less than 1% of the population in the United States. However, their farms produce enough crops to make the U.S. the world’s third largest producing country in agricultural commodities. With such an abundance of food, it can be easy to forget that farming is hard work. Long days are needed to get the crops out of the ground and into our markets. Any delay can ruin entire harvests that have taken months to plan and grow. This puts a lot of pressure on the farmers to work quickly. With so few people interested in farm labor, many farms have needed to buy specialized equipment to help their work force meet their quotas. As efficient as these machines can be, they can also be dangerous.

The agricultural industry is one of America’s most hazardous work environments. Working with heavy equipment, pesticides, and other chemicals are all part of a farm worker’s daily routine. As a result, farm workers are at a very high risk for injuries. According to the CDC, about 167 agricultural workers suffer a lost-work-time injury every day. 8 of those injuries will result in permanent disability. In 2012, 374 agricultural worker deaths were reported.

The dangerous work conditions on farms have led state and federal authorities to implement safety protocols to protect laborers. These safety regulations can prevent countless injuries if they are followed. Unfortunately this only fixes one of the problems. Many injuries are caused by dangerous and defective equipment.

Farm machinery and equipment are required to work through tough conditions and environments for hours on end. As such, they require constant maintenance. To this end, manufacturers and servicers of farm equipment have a special duty to make sure the equipment is safe for use. Agricultural equipment is not only defective when it is improperly made, but it is also considered defective if it is improperly maintained, designed, or lacks warnings. In cases where it is impossible to make a machine 100%, safe, it becomes even more important for manufacturers to warn about the possible dangers and how to avoid them. Many dangers (such as spring tension, electricity, and heat) are not obvious and a simple warning can save a life.

Equipment defects cause career ending injuries and victims deserve to be compensated for their loss; especially if they were following the rules and were hurt as a result of defective equipment. Not every accident is due to faulty machinery, but many are; which is why it is important for workers hurt on the job to contact a lawyer and find out what their rights are. A lawyer may also be necessary to discover whether a machine is defective because it is not always easy to tell if farm equipment was poorly made or poorly designed. It takes years of expertise to know the signs of a problem. By contacting a lawyer, everyday workers can protect their rights and the wellbeing of their fellow coworkers.

The attorneys at Pickett Dummigan LLP are nationally known for their representation of workers who have been hurt in worksite accidents or by equipment defects. Our lawyers work hand in hand with engineers to hold companies responsible and fix bad equipment designs. If you or a loved one have been hurt at a worksite or hurt by defective machinery, we may be able to help you. Contact our office for a free consultation at 503-405-8037.

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