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The Biggest Risks for Young Farm Workers

A lot of young people get their first jobs working on farms. It’s a very hands-on occupation, something you can learn as you go, and an industry in which labor is always a necessity. As they learn, though, these young workers face some serious hazards. According to the Occupation Safety and Health Administration, the following are some of the biggest risks:

1. Heat-Related Issues

OSHA notes that heat-related illnesses – like heat stroke – are very preventable. Still, thousands of workers are injured every single year by exposure to the heat. At their worst, these are fatal accidents. OSHA warns that overexposure, especially when wearing bulky gear or using certain types of farm equipment, can be extremely dangerous. Water, rest, and shade are the three keys to preventing these injuries, but they’re not always offered when employers value production over all else.

2. Machinery and Equipment Issues

Large pieces of farm equipment, like combines and front-end loaders, are clear hazards, much as similar machines present dangers on a construction site. Even simple farming tools, like knives and hoes, can be dangerous. OSHA recommends that all workers get the correct personal protective equipment when using power tools and other devices. Additionally, workers should not wear clothing with hanging strings, which could be caught in rotating tools and cause serious – and sometimes fatal – injuries.

3. Chemical Hazards

A lot of chemicals are used on farms. Some are used for cleaning and others are used as pesticides. Even when cleared for agriculture use, they pose serious dangers to workers who may get them on their skin or in their eyes. Workers may also ingest chemicals or breathe in the fumes. Not only do workers who handle chemicals need equipment and proper training, but safety procedures must be in place to help if there is an incident.

4. Falls

In almost any industry, falls are an issue, and farmworkers are often injured when falling from ladders. The Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that, in 2011, 48.2 agricultural workers out of every 10,000 were injured in falls. That’s a far higher rate than is found in industries like manufacturing, transportation, and mining. From 2007 to 2011, they also noted that there were 167 deadly falls.

Farmworkers have a right to a safe workplace, excellent training, and healthy working conditions, regardless of their age and experience. Workers who are injured on the job may be able to seek compensation if they weren’t given safe conditions and if negligence by superiors factored into the equation.