US Department of Labor urges greater focus on safety by employers, workers as deaths, injuries in agricultural transportation incidents rises sharply
SAN FRANCISCO – As the nation marks National Farm Safety and Health Week, Sept. 19-23, the U.S. Department of Labor is urging agricultural industry employers and workers to act immediately to reverse an alarming increase in needless deaths and injuries in transportation-related incidents.
In California, Oregon and Washington, six recent transportation incidents led to eight agricultural worker fatalities and more than 30 injuries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, of the 589 agricultural workers fatally injured on the job in 2020, 271 died in transportation-related incidents.
“Vehicle crashes are among the leading causes of agricultural workers’ injuries. In the past year, we have seen too of these workers suffering fatal and serious injuries,” said Wage and Hour Regional Administrator Ruben Rosalez in San Francisco. “Industry employers, including labor contractors, must follow required safety measures such regular vehicle safety inspections and ensuring drivers are properly licensed. At the same time, workers should be wearing seat belts. These common-sense approaches can be the difference between life and death.”
From 2017-2021, the department’s Wage and Hour Division conducted more than 3,750 agricultural investigations. Many of the violations cited safety issues related to the transportation of workers to and from their worksites. In total, these investigations assessed employers more than $30 million in civil money penalties.
Federal laws require farm labor contractors to register with the department and obtain authorization for housing, transporting or driving workers. Investigators typically identified the following types of related violations:
- Failing to provide safe vehicles.
- Transporting workers without authorization.
- Using unregistered farm labor contractors to provide services.
- Not obtaining required insurance coverage.
- Failing to ensure drivers have a valid license.
To help employers and workers understand the critical need to ensure safety in the transportation of agricultural workers, the division offers information on transportation safety for agricultural workers and an Agriculture Compliance Assistance Toolkit on worker protections and employer obligations.
Read about 16-year-old, Corrina Palacios who died as a passenger in a van transporting farmworkers in California’s Central Valley in 2016, leaving her family forever changed.
Learn more about the division. The department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages regardless of where they are from through the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).