Statistically, a farmhand has one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. According to CDC tracking, nearly 170 farmhands are injured every day. These injuries cost the worker time and money, time spent off the field recovering from the injury, and money to cover the hospital bills. And sometimes these incidents prove fatal, such as last week’s farm tractor accident in Somis, California.
The victim was 27 year-old Jose Lopez. He was found alone on the morning of April 20th, underneath irrigation systems being pulled by a farm tractor. There were no reported witnesses to the accident, nobody that could have prevented the crushing injuries. Lopez died on the scene before help could arrive.
A farm tractor accident is a common cause of death in agriculture
Most farm tractor accident deaths come from tractor roll-overs. These can be caused by reckless and unsafe operation, but another common factor is the terrain itself. Even a safe driver could find their tractor flipping end over end. The types of injuries and deaths caused by a tractor roll-over can be prevented by special roll-over protection modifications. The newest tractor designs are required to have roll-over protection, or accept roll-over protection modification.
Tragically, this would not have saved Jose Lopez: He was killed by equipment being pulled by his tractor.
This accident is still under investigation. The exact causes are yet to be determined, and as of this writing there are no known witnesses to the accident. Jose Lopez lost his life alone in a field, operating dangerous equipment without others present to offer immediate assistance.
Many farm tractor accident injuries and deaths happen when there is little or no additional supervision. Most tractor accidents happen during routine use in the field. However, they can also happen during maintenance, when the tractor is supposedly parked and secured in place.
A record worthy of concern
Laguna Farms was Jose Lopez’ employer. Earlier in the year, the company was fined for failing to maintain a Form 300. This form acts as a document of all work-related injuries. An additional fine was leveled against Laguna Farms for a failure to provide shade to employees. As temperatures reached above 80 degrees, shade becomes an issue of health and safety.
Neglect is a root cause of many farm injuries and deaths. Improper or lack of maintenance to equipment, or a lack of training leaves farmhands vulnerable and unprepared for emergencies.
Cal/OSHA will be performing a review of this farm tractor accident. However, it can be four months or more before any solid conclusions are drawn from the accident. Whatever conclusions that will be drawn from this tragedy will sadly be too late for Jose Lopez and his family. However, it may lead to lives being saved in the future.