OSHA has safety standards that regulate businesses across Minnesota and the rest of the U.S. The safety organization can also inspect workplaces and impose fines for violations, yet this power does not extend to small farms. Farms with 10 or fewer employees were exempted under a rider that Congress attached to OSHA’s budget back in 1976, and it has been that way ever since.

This has caused a lot of controversy. The farming industry is dangerous with many workers being seriously injured or killed by heavy machinery, yet OSHA is unable to investigate these incidents and hold small farm owners liable. It leads many owners to neglect the safety of their workers. OSHA, for its part, does not seem to complain. In fact, it criticized the Obama administration when it cited a small Nebraska farm for a safety violation back in 2013.

In 1999, a senator proposed an amendment to permit OSHA to investigate fatal accidents on small farms if the victim was a minor. The senator withdrew the bill, though, when he realized it would fail. Even if it were passed, the amendment would not have given OSHA the authority to penalize the owners. Then, in 2019, a representative, saying that the rider is affecting an inordinate number of ethnic minorities, tried to remove it entirely but failed.

Injured farm workers may or may not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits; it all depends on factors like whether they were employed on a “family farm” and received wages below a certain amount. Victims may do well, then, to see a lawyer about how to move forward. The lawyer may evaluate their case, help them file a claim and, if necessary, help mount an appeal. If successful, victims may be reimbursed for medical bills and a percentage of their lost wages.