Worker safety on small farms is something of a point of contention in the United States. While other types of businesses have to answer to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Congress determined decades ago that the same oversight should not apply to these small farming operations. They’re often family-run farms, though they may still have employees.
The problem is that the lack of government oversight means that dangerous and even deadly conditions sometimes exist. When a worker is injured or even killed, these events do not always spark the same large-scale investigations that they would elsewhere.
California, however, does treat small farms a bit differently than many other states. After all, despite not having federal oversight, state governments in 21 different states have set up oversight regulations at that lower level. They attempt to manage things the same way that OSHA does, though they are legally barred from doing any of it with federal money.
Naturally, this still means that the majority of the states have no oversight, but it gets even more dangerous when you factor in that experts agree that the only states to realistically carry out consistent safety inspections are California, Washington and Oregon. Other states may look into things when there are fatalities or in serious situations, but they rarely — if ever — do more traditional safety inspections.
The fact that California does is a positive for worker safety, but it absolutely does not mean that workers never get injured or killed on small farms within the state. The family members of these workers need to know if they have a right to compensation for medical bills, funeral costs, lost wages and more.