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Does the small farm exemption cost lives?
Somervell PD; Conway GA
Am J Ind Med 2011 Jun; 54(6):461-466
Background: Congress has exempted farms with fewer than 11 employees from enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Three states (California, Oregon, and Washington) do not observe the exemption. Methods: We compared rates of fatal occupational injury in agriculture, by year, in 1993-2007, in California, Oregon, and Washington (aggregated), and the remaining states (as two aggregated groups): those with, and those without, state-designed occupational safety and health programs. Results: Fatality rates were approximately 1.6 to 3 times as high in both groups of states observing the small farm exemption as in the group of three states not observing it. Comparisons excluding the agriculture industry showed weaker differences. Conclusions: The three states' opting out of the small farm exemption may have had substantial direct effects. They may also reflect and/or encourage a generally more effective approach to occupational health and safety. Although alternative explanations must be considered, the stakes are high in terms of injury and loss of life; further investigation seems urgently indicated.
Agricultural-industry; Agricultural-processes; Agriculture; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Mortality-rates; Risk-factors; Safety-measures; Safety-monitoring; Safety-programs; Safety-research; Statistical-analysis; Surveillance-programs; Work-analysis; Worker-health; Author Keywords: agriculture; fatalities; injury; regulation; safety; occupational; enforcement; exemption; small farm
Philip D. Somervell, PhD, Epidemiologist Alaska Pacific Regional Office, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 4230 University Drive, Suite 310, Anchorage, AK 99508
Issue of Publication
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
American Journal of Industrial Medicine
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division