Workers at Syracuse-area dairy farms may see a change in routine this coming summer. Recently, an advocacy group for farm workers' rights has been calling for random inspections of dairy farms in New York. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration plans to begin performing the surprise inspections starting in July, but the advocacy group is concerned about possible delays.
The Workers Center of Central New York is concerned about the reluctance of farm workers to report poor workplace safety conditions or injuries. A factor in this reluctance is that many workers are immigrants without legal documentation, and these workers and their families rely not only on the job but also on the housing provided on the property.
The surprise inspections addressed by the group are not limited to just farms. They also include fields of work that have high rates of injuries. OSHA gave warning to the New York farms in August 2013 to give them time to prepare for the start of the inspections in July 2014.
Sometimes workers may feel afraid to come forward and reveal certain workplace issues, such as faulty machinery or other unsafe conditions. Many employees believe that making these reports might result in retaliation, even as extreme as termination. However, not holding employers accountable for unsafe work conditions can have devastating consequences for workers and their families, and retaliation against workers for reporting workplace safety issues is illegal.
The lead organizer for the Workers Center indicated that 10 fatal work accidents have occurred in New York's dairy industry since 2007. Workers who have been injured in the course of any sort of employment should be aware of their right to seek workers' compensation benefits. These benefits can cover medical bills, lost wages and other costs resulting from a work-related accident.
Source: Syracuse.com, "Worker rights advocates call for safety inspections at New York dairy farms," Rick Moriarty, Jan. 11, 2014