Tennessee residents should know that farming is among the most dangerous occupations. Sadly, OSHA oversight does not extend to small farms with fewer than 10 employees. This goes back to the appropriations bill that was passed in 1976, to which Congress added a rider exempting such farms from OSHA inspections and the enforcement of OSHA safety protocols.
This means that small farms cannot be held accountable for employees’ injuries or deaths. There have been several attempts at an alteration. In 1999, for instance, a Rhode Island senator proposed an amendment to let OSHA investigate the deaths of minors on small farms, yet shortly after, he withdrew the proposal. Even if passed, the amendment would not have given OSHA the authority to penalize employers.
In 2013, a small Nebraska farm was issued a citation by the Obama Administration after it was found to have violated OSHA regulations, but the move met with criticism from OSHA itself in addition to the American Farm Bureau Federation. Then, in 2019, a representative from Connecticut tried unsuccessfully to remove the rider. The exemption, as the representative pointed out, affects the safety of many minorities as 76% of farm workers are Hispanic or Latino. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, farming continues to see some of the highest fatality rates of any industry.
Regardless of this bill, farm workers who have been injured can be eligible for benefits under workers’ compensation law. Benefits are paid out independent of who, if anyone, was to blame for the incident, but employers do have the ability to deny claims. Victims may want to learn more about the filing process from a lawyer and hire him or her for assistance, especially when it comes to mounting an appeal. The lawyer may explain how to settle a case.