North Carolina residents may not be aware that labor regulations do not apply to children working for their parents or relatives due to the assumption that parents will take special care of their children. And as workplace injuries, workplace accidents and work-related deaths fell across the country, preventable deaths continued by becoming trapped in silos and grain bins.

The number of these deaths has remained steady over the years and approximately 20 percent of them involve workers under the age of 20. The steady rate demonstrates shortcomings in the worker safety laws and regulations meant to protect all workers.

According to professors of engineering, almost all of these accidents are preventable by following a few simple steps such as turning off power equipment before entering a silo and providing a safety harness to workers entering the silo. Unfortunately, most farms do not follow the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s precautions and accidents result, such as the entrapment of a teenage boy for 12 hours while 300 workers tried to free him.

After a number of recent teenage deaths at a farm in another state, the Labor Department reminded employers of their duty to train their workers and p rovide a safe working environment for them-he asked employers to take these steps to reduce avoidable deaths. He also mentioned that criminal prosecution may result in the future.

Though some farm workers may not come within federal purview, state worker safety officials sometimes fine employers for general safety violations.

Federal labor standards apply to more than 10,000 of the biggest facilities and their employees have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim to recover compensation for their injuries. Doing so also raises awareness about lax security measures and may help save lives in North Carolina and across the nation.

Source: The New York Times, “Silos loom as death traps on American farms,” John M. Broder, Oct. 29, 2012