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North Carolina must reduce farmer workplace injuries, fatalities

Across the country, people love their food, whether they are vegetarian or meat eaters. However, North Carolina residents may not give a lot of thought to how the food on their plants was harvested, planted or grown. This is why they may not know that the last week of March is the National Farmers Awareness Week. It is time to appreciate the work farmers do to get food to tables across the country and also raise awareness about the risks involved in their industry.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the agriculture industry is one of the most dangerous ones in the country. More than 5,000 people died from work related injuries between 2003 and 2011. In fact, in 2011, the fatality rate for agriculture workers was seven times more than the average fatality rate for workers in the private sector and 40 times more farmers are hurt on the job than all other workers. Since children as young as 10 can work on farms, younger children are performing tasks they may not be physically able to handle, exposing them to hazards.

Every day, an astonishing 243 farm workers suffer injuries that prevent them from working. Many North Carolina farmers do not provide workers' compensation to farmers as they are not required to do so. Many organizations in the state are working to change these policies, and make the agricultural industry safer for all those working in it.

Those workers who get hurt on the job in an organization, where their employers provide workers compensation may not know it is their right to file a claim to recover compensation to cover their medical expenses and wages lost during their recuperation. The key is understanding your rights.

Source: North Carolina Policy Watch, "One area in which NC should strive to be unexceptional," Carol Brooke, Mar. 25, 2014

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