Imagine that you have just suffered a work-related injury. Would you report it to your employer? Perhaps you think that it won't affect your ability to work. Maybe it will. If you're like a lot of people across the state then you might even think that it will be better for you and the company if you do not report the injury at all.
But when it comes to the agricultural industry, this is perhaps the worst thought that you can have. This is true for a number of reasons. The first is of course the issues this could create for you down the road.
Consider for a moment suffering a minor work-related injury that heals in a matter of days. You might think it inconsequential to not report the injury. But what if you reinjure it later on and are unable to work for several weeks or even months? Because you failed to report the initial injury, you might run into problems when applying for workers’ compensation benefits. Your employer may blame the injury on you because you failed to report the first injury and you may not receive benefits because of this.
Another problem that is created by not reporting injuries is inaccurate data. According to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 32,000 agricultural injuries and illnesses were reported in 2011. Unfortunately, it’s believed that a majority of injuries, roughly 77 percent, went unreported. If you were to include injuries suffered by contract workers, family members and injured workers on farms with less than 11 employees, then you might find that total number of injuries closer to 143,436.
It’s because of this inaccurate data that state legislatures, including California, are unable to draft stronger safety policies for agricultural workers. The inaccurate data also does not show the necessity for better worker education, especially when it comes to compensation benefits and their eligibility. Some employees may not even know that a minor injury can qualify them for benefits that can be used to cover medical expenses and even time away from work. As you can imagine, this is one of those problems that can have far-reaching consequences.
Source: Farmworkerjustice.org, “Study Estimates that 77% of Agricultural Injuries are Unreported,” Chelly Richards, May 20, 2014