The farming industry is a dangerous one with many workers becoming run over by or caught in heavy machinery. Usually, whenever there is an injury or death on a workplace, OSHA would investigate and, if applicable, issue penalties for safety violations. What New Jersey workers should know, however, is that small farms are exempt from this.

In 1976, Congress added a rider to OSHA’s budget: namely, that all farms with 10 or fewer employees are exempt from OSHA inspections and safety protocols. This basically lets small farm owners off the hook whenever there’s an injury or death, even when there’s evidence that the incident was preventable.

A representative from Connecticut tried unsuccessfully to remove the rider back in 2019, saying that it’s affecting many ethnic and racial minorities in particular by reducing their rights. About 76% of farm workers are Hispanic or Latino.

That was not the first time someone tried to do something about the situation. In 1999, a senator proposed an amendment that would have allowed OSHA to investigate fatal accidents on small farms if the victim in question was a minor. Yet the amendment would not have given OSHA any authority beyond determining a cause of death. The senator withdrew the proposal before it could be voted on.

Under workers’ compensation law, an injured employee can receive benefits covering medical expenses, short- or long-term disability leave and a percentage of income lost. When it comes to farmers, some cannot be eligible for benefits, so it may be worthwhile for victims to consult with a lawyer once they have reached maximum medical improvement. The lawyer may assist with the filing of the claim and any appeals should the employer deny payment. The lawyer may also explain the pros and cons of settling a claim.