The Washington State Department of Labor and Industry has issued a hazard alert to the agriculture industry as a response to an unusually high number of Lower Valley tractor accidents already this year, reports the Yakima Herald.
The alert follows the death of an orchard employee in Wapato last week who was killed when an orchard sprayer that was attached to a tractor rolled over on him when he was trying to change a tire on the sprayer. That marked the third tractor accident this year in the Yakima Valley area and the second fatality. The other fatal accident occurred in June when a worker was pinned between a large tree limb and his tractor when he was working in a cherry orchard.
Washington State officials are concerned that the three tractor incidents could indicate a repeat of the 2010 growing season, which saw seven farm workers lose their lives in tractor-related accidents. Out of the seven deaths that year, five were caused by the tractor, or equipment being pulled by a tractor, overturning and crushing the workers.
The Dangers of Working in the Agricultural Industry
Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations to work in because of the equipment and machinery used. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, there were almost 1.8 million agricultural workers employed in 2009 nationwide. In the same year, there were 440 fatal accidents across the country, or a fatality rate of 24.7 per 100,000 workers–significantly higher than in many other occupations. In addition, national statistics tell us that every day almost 250 farm workers lose time from work as a direct result of injuries sustained on the job.
Unlike many other industries, the actual worker may not be the only person at risk of injury in the farming industry. Often, entire families live on the grounds during the planting and harvesting season. This often puts young children at risk for injury as well. In 2009, an estimated 16,100 children and adolescents were injured on farms, with 3,400 of these injuries as a direct result of farm work.
Common Farming Accidents
A common type of accident related to the agriculture industry is a rollover accident. Many of the machines used to farm are heavy and can easily trap and kill an operator if they roll over. Furthermore, because farm land is rarely perfectly flat, the terrain itself frequently causes machinery to tip over while being operated. According to the CDC, almost 100 deaths annually can be attributed to rollover accidents. Sadly, most of these deaths could have been prevented had the tractor or machinery been equipped with a Roll-Over Protective Structure, or ROPS. As the name implies, these are designed to prevent a tractor, or other type of farm machinery, from rolling over in much the same way that a roll bar prevents a Jeep from rolling over.
Who Is At Fault In A Farm Injury Accident?
If you have been injured in a farming or agricultural industry accident, the farm accident attorneys at Mariano Morales Law may be able to help. Contact our Yakima legal team today by calling 509-457-1948 or by using our online contact form for your free initial consultation.