End Preventable Silo Deaths on Family Farms

stock-footage-loading-corn-into-the-silo

Target: President Obama

Goal: End silo deaths by asking government to enact appropriate health and safety regulations for small farms

Silos holding corn, soy, and other grains Americans depend on pose fatal risks to farmworkers. In the last 5 years, there have been a total of 80 deaths in silos. Even more disturbing is the fact that 14 of those victims were teenage boys. Because of problems with worker safety laws and the fact that small family farms are exempt from complying with federal health and safety rules, minors are being put at horrendous risks. The exemption to farms with fewer than 10 employees has been in place since 1938, and is justified by the idea that parents will take care of their children and not place them in harm’s way. However, with the country’s growing reliance on staple grains, small farms are desperate to keep up with demand, and accidents resulting in injury and fatality to young workers are increasing. Government has taken notice. In the aftermath of two fatalities in a silo in Oklahoma last year (one being a 17-year-old boy), new child labor rules for agriculture were introduced. Ultimately, they did not go through, and the Obama administration has said that they will not pursue further regulations in the future. These deaths are completely preventable according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Please sign this petition and ask President Obama not to give up on safety for small family farms. Lives depend on it.

Seventy percent of grain entrapment accidents occur on small family farms, and 40% of all workplace deaths are teenage farmworkers. Proposed health and safety rules by the Department of Labor would have placed major restrictions on minors working on farms. Farmers all agreed that the regulations went way too far in restricting teenagers from doing almost any work on farms, dangerous or not. Congress was unanimous in killing the rules, and President Obama made no attempts to demand revisions, or the proposal of new rules. He went so far as to issue a statement that “this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.”

The reality is that deaths are occurring to young farmworkers at an alarming rate. The Obama administration should seek input from family farmers to create appropriate standards for minor labor on farms. Training and equipment to make working in silos safer should also be made accessible to small farms. Please sign this petition to encourage the Obama administration to revisit the issue.

PETITION LETTER

Dear President Obama,

The American demand for corn, soy, and other grains has placed pressure on small farms to store and produce large quantities of grain. Tragically, this has contributed to grain entrapment injuries and fatalities. Teenage boys working on their family’s farms are often the victims. With proper training, equipment, and laws in place to protect minors working on farms, all of these deaths could be prevented. After two fatalities in a silo in Oklahoma last year, one of which was a 17-year-old boy, new rules were proposed by the Department of Labor. While they were not perfect, they could have been revised to take into account farmers needs and protect minors. However, you decided to abandon the issue and not address it for the rest of your administration.

Many are appalled by the lack of commitment shown towards the safety of minors on farms including Rena Seinzor, a professor at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law. “I’m very frustrated and disgusted with the White House,” Seinzor said. The rules proposed by the Department of Labor were too broad, and ended up prohibiting minors from doing basic chores on their family’s farms. What has people enraged is your unwillingness to work with the department and farmers to make revisions. The Department of Labor tried to modernize farm safety rules that could have saved lives, and you ended that hope for the rest of your administration.

When people’s lives are at stake, every effort should be made to help them. Please reconsider revisions to health and safety rules for minors working on farms.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: footage.shutterstock.com

 

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One Comment

  1. They supply our lifeline of food, and we owe them their safety at all times. Absurd to make any exception.

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