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OSHA prevented from protecting workers on small farms

A 1976 government bill was passed that effectively prevents the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from protecting the well-being of an estimated 1.2 million workers. Though nearly 93 percent of the farms in this country meet the definition of a small farming operation, this OSHA exemption has resulted in an estimated 330 deaths over a six-year span. It is possible that Missouri workers employed by a small farm could face dangerous conditions.

OSHA officials would not have been called to investigate the cause of those fatal accidents. The federal agency is also prevented from conducting safety inspections or providing information to farmers that could prevent a serious accident from occurring. The 1976 provision was inserted as a way of preserving the rights of the individual farmer who employs 10 or fewer non-family workers. Unfortunately, this concession to lessen government interference has lead to often dangerous working conditions.

Approximately 21 states have regulation agreements under OSHA that permit state inspections and investigations into small farm accidents, though they may not use any federal funding. Sadly, only a few of these states reportedly take an active role in investigating and attempting to prevent future accidents. Researchers with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reported that small farm fatalities could be drastically reduced if the exemption to the Appropriations Acts was eliminated.

According to data supplied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 1,800 deaths were reported that involved accidents on small farmers, many of which included family members. The Department of Labor has found that farms that employ 11 or more non-family laborers were more likely to provide safety equipment and standards -- in part due to regulations enforced by OSHA. Regardless of the stipulation that prohibits OSHA involvement in small farm accidents, Missouri workers who do suffer a serious injury on the job are entitled to seek the assistance of an experienced attorney in order to file a claim for maximum benefits from the state's workers' compensation insurance program.

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