If you get hurt on the job, your employer is required by law to pay for workers' compensation benefits.
You could get hurt by a sudden accident at work or by exposure to chemicals, loud noise or doing the same motion over and over. Workers' compensation benefits include medical care for your job injury, fully paid for by your employer. Depending on your injury, you may also be eligible to receive temporary disability payments if you cannot work while recovering, permanent disability payments if you don't recover completely from you injury, and job counseling and retraining benefits if you cannot return to your old job. If you die from a job injury, your spouse, children and other dependents will receive death benefits and a burial allowance.
You may be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits even if you are a temporary or part-time worker, even if you are called an independent contractor, and even if you are not a legal resident of the United States. Benefits are paid no matter who was at fault for your injury. It is illegal for your employer to punish or fire you for having a job injury or for requesting workers' compensation benefits when you believe your injury was caused by your job.
If you get hurt at work, it is important to tell your supervisor right away. If your employer does not have workers' compensation insurance or if you encounter other problems, get help. Contact a state office of the California Division of Workers' Compensation.
Agriculture is among the most hazardous industries in the United States. Many farmworkers fear contamination from agricultural chemicals and pesticides, but injuries from chemical exposure make up only 2 percent of the total. Ninety-eight percent of injuries are related to other factors, such as back injury from lifting heavy loads or repetitive stooped posture, hearing loss from loud equipment, respiratory disorders from dust, arthritis from repetitive motion, and lacerations, strains and sprains from falls or encounters with livestock.
Employers are responsible for identifying and controlling workplace hazards and for providing worker safety training. However, farmworkers sometimes cut corners to work more quickly, especially when working at piece rate when pay depends on speed.
But speed increases risk of lost-time injury or an injury that can stop income altogether.
It's important to use all safety equipment provided by the employer, even though it may make the job slower or more uncomfortable. For example, safety goggles, seat belts, protective clothing and ear plugs significantly reduce injuries.
Climbing down a ladder to reposition it during harvest takes time, but leaning too far off the ladder to reduce the number of times it needs to be moved increases the risk of falling. When harvesting orchards, many picking bags are equipped with a bottom dump, which takes a few seconds to unclip and empty. To gain speed, some farmworkers just flip the bag over, subjecting their bodies to an awkward twisting movement that can cause back, shoulder, arm or other injuries. In other harvest processes, workers might try to save time by running to the bin where fruits or vegetables must be dumped. However, carrying a load already makes the worker unstable. The furrows are frequently muddy, uneven and filled with slippery culls. Running greatly increases the likelihood of falls.
By being aware of injury risks, reporting hazards, using safety equipment and practicing safe procedures, farmworkers are more likely to stay on the job, rather than find themselves in need of extended time off to recover.
Although employers are required to provide drinking water on the job, many workers don't drink enough of it. Some may feel their supervisor doesn't approve or they don't want to take time out when working at a piece rate. Others tend to wait until they feel thirsty. Whatever the reason, workers put themselves in danger by not drinking enough water or not drinking water often enough.
All heat illnesses can cause harm, and one of them -- heat stroke -- can kill. It is useful for people who work hard outdoors to understand how the body generates and copes with heat. Most important is the connection between fluid loss and heat illness.
Some of the heat that people have to deal with comes from the sun and surrounding air, but most of the heat that stresses workers is created by their own bodies. The body generates heat when moving muscles and limbs. It even produces some heat at rest.
To cool itself, the body first increases blood flow toward the body surface. From the skin, heat can be released. However, hot or humid weather slows the release. To compensate, sweat glands to kick in. Sweat carries heat out faster through pores.
Sweating draws water from the blood stream, leaving less fluid to carry oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, brain and other internal organs. The thicker blood makes the heart work harder. If the lost fluid is not replaced by drinking, this process can cause heat illness. The first stage of head illness is heat rash. The problems can get much worse – including cramping, confusion and, eventually, collapse.
If you notice heat illness symptoms in yourself, stop working, sit in the shade, drink water, loosen clothing, and tell your supervisor as soon as possible. If you notice symptoms in co-workers or friends, you can help them take these potentially life-saving steps.
The most common and costly agricultural injuries are back injuries. Many back injuries are related to lifting and carrying heavy loads. Awkward postures and slips and falls are also common causes of back injuries.
Research has shown that the use of back belts and stretching exercises don't help prevent back injuries. The best way to avoid back injuries is by carrying loads of no more than 50 pounds. In research studies, when loads of harvested grapes being carried by farmworkers were kept to less than 50 pounds, back injuries occurred four times less often. UC researchers now recommend that smaller containers be used in the field for carrying picked fruit – including smaller picking bags in orchards. Where smaller containers are not available, try not to fill larger containers to their fullest. While this may require more walking to empty containers, research in grape harvest showed that workers who carried lighter loads had more energy to work faster later in the day and so did not lose productivity or income.
When confronted with a load of more than 50 pounds seek help from a co-worker and make sure the lift is coordinated so one of you doesn't wind up holding the entire load.
Don't take chances with your back by routinely lifting loads over 50 pounds. When you hurt your back, you risk not only your employment and being able to provide for your family, but also your enjoyment of life with friends and family. Working smarter reduces injury risk and doesn't have to cost you income.
The stress of workplace conflicts can put farmworkers at a greater risk for on-the-job injuries. Frustration and anger can distract workers from their focus on the task at hand and on completing that task safely and properly. When disagreements between workers or with supervisors are poorly dealt with, the outcome can be a sense of psychological distance, such as lasting feelings of dislike, alienation and disregard.
The first thing that gets in the way of resolving conflicts is the natural desire to explain our own side first, sometimes in a loud or harsh manner that creates more animosity. The second obstacle is being an ineffective listener.
Listening is more than being quiet, it is actively seeking to comprehend the other person's point of view. Fear can also prevent conflict resolution – the fear of losing something or the fear of looking foolish. Finally, the assumption that one of the contending parties has to lose if the other is going to win can block a resolution.
Researchers have found simple and effective tools to reach positive solutions to disagreements. First, encourage others to explain their side first. Then they will be more likely to listen to your side. When your opponent is speaking, resist the tendency to interrupt with objections, no matter how unfounded some of the comments may seem. And don't spend the time composing a perfect comeback. Really listen.
When it's your turn to talk, try not to focus on your solution, but making sure that the needs of the other person as well as yours are considered. You may be surprised to find that you have more in common with your adversary than you thought.