Pennsylvania farm workers may recall hearing about the recent reversal of a directive promulgated by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The regulation attempted to prevent injuries to children by placing limits on the ability of children to work on farms.
Details of the reversal
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, along with other state bureaus, successfully implemented a campaign against the directive. The directive placed limitations on young people working on family farms. Children under the age of 16 could not participate in certain farm activities, such as milking cows.
One of the reasons for opposing the directive was the impact it would have on farm families. Opponents of the directive say it would have prevented parents from teaching children the value of farm work and call its reversal a major victory for farm families. Farming is typically a family oriented profession, with children of farm families often sharing in chores.
However, opponents of the reversal say the directive was intended to prevent damage or injury to migrant farm workers. They claim young migrant workers lacking experience are vulnerable to harm without the protections offered by the directive. Additionally, those challenging the reversal allege that a majority of the complaints came from major farming businesses and chambers of commerce, who focus on profits over safety.
The executive director of the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs says he is “profoundly disappointed” the DOL is no longer focusing on shielding children employed on family farms, and he says many of the regulations were based on common sense. An advocate for seasonal and migrant farm workers, he says the regulations would have saved many lives.
Legal implications of injuries on farms and in the workplace
Farmers face different liability concerns than the typical property owner. Regular homeowners are generally only responsible for their home and yard. In contrast, farmers are responsible for large areas of land occupied by numerous guests or employees. Hazardous equipment is also commonly found on farms. This increases the potential that an individual could be harmed or injured while on a farmer’s property.
An individual who controls access to property is labeled the property possessor. The possessor is liable for injuries occurring on the property. When the property possessor makes determinations about who may enter the property he or she is exercising control. A person with control over the property can be the farm owner, but also could be a farm hand or independent contractor.
The property possessor has a duty to protect guests and those invited onto the property from hazardous conditions that the possessor knows about or should know about. This duty applies to trespassers as well, but to a lesser degree.
If a farm animal causes injury, the “owner or keeper” of the animal is responsible. Liability factors include:
- The animal causing the injury
- The foreseeability of the injury
- The action resulting in the injury
An individual injured on a farm or other workplace property may file a claim for negligence. To succeed, the individual must prove the farmer owed a duty to provide safe conditions and breached the duty. The breach of the duty must result in the injury.
Injuries from farm accidents are often devastating, resulting in large medical bills, severe pain and lost wages. An experienced personal injury attorney can provide valuable guidance and assist with obtaining any available compensation.