Workers’ Compensation in Agriculture
The agriculture sector, and farming activities in particular, is one of the nation’s most hazardous environments, in which injuries occur almost daily. The sector is also the second largest in the U.S. in terms of the number of workers’ compensation claims it receives annually. Around two million full-time workers are employed each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Every day around 100 workers lose time because of injuries, while 20 in each 100,000 are fatal.
Injuries in the Agricultural Sector
The sector is rife with injuries unique to the functions performed by workers. These usually fall into the following categories:
Motor vehicle accidents comprise around half of all fatalities in agriculture and include tractor rollovers, injuries caused by ATV and harvester incidents. Farm tractor accidents killed more than 1,500 people between 2003 and 2011, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).
Exposure to heat and the resulting illnesses cause thousands of workers to become ill every year. Dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat rash, heat cramps and heat stroke are common heat-related illnesses suffered by agricultural laborers.
At a rate of almost 50 per 10,000 workers, the number of injuries from slips and falls is far higher in this sector than in the transportation, mining or manufacturing industries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This category includes injuries sustained while working with knives, hoes and power cutting tools. Other risks are suffocation or engulfment in grain bins and silos during feed manufacturing, as well as grain dust exposure and explosions. Statistics from OSHA show 19 injuries, including eight fatalities from engulfment in bins during 2012.
Other hazards in the agricultural industry include:
- Chemicals and pesticides
- Respiratory distress resulting from contaminated air caused by animal confinement
- Musculoskeletal injuries caused by repetitive strain
Workers’ Compensation Coverage by State
Applying insurance rules and regulations is challenging, because the agriculture industry itself is fraught with paradoxical situations, exemptions and special rulings. Every state has its own rules regarding farm workers’ compensation coverage.
The Role of Workers’ Compensation in Agriculture
The role of workers’ compensation is a complex but vital one within the agricultural industry. While coverage for temporary farm workers is not required in all states, employers can enjoy peace of mind and reduce their risk of costly litigation in the event of an incident by ensuring they have the insurance protection they need.