Cry for safety inspections at New York dairy farms

Worker rights advocates recently met with the Syracuse Media Group editorial board to push for random federal safety inspections on New York dairy farms.

The groups are seeking to protect the rights of farm workers and want to push forward a program that would implement surprise safety inspection visits on dairies across the sate.

The organizer of the central New York Workers Center stated dairy farm workers are hesitant to report safety violations or unsafe working conditions because they are afraid they will lose their jobs. She claimed the inspections are necessary.

Many of the workers hired by dairy farmers in the state are illegal immigrants of Latino origin. They are dependent on the farms, not only for work, but also for the temporary housing the work provides for the duration of the work. The federal program calling for the inspections is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and has proposed starting the visits in the summer. It will focus on the industries with the highest rates of injuries on the job.

Farms that could face surprise inspections are those that employ 11 or more people or which provide temporary housing for employees. The proposed program is similar to one the state of Wisconsin has been using.

Several Congressmen from upstate New York have requested a delay in initiating the surprise inspections, claiming the random visits might result in fees that smaller dairy farms cannot afford. Advocates of the safety inspections pointed out that advance notifications had been sent out in plenty of time to address safety violations.

Organizers of the program cite almost a dozen fatal incidents on New York dairy farms in the last 5 years. The farms where these accidents occurred are under federal scrutiny and will be targets of the upcoming surprise inspections.

Workers on dairy farms in New York have the right to complain about illegal behavior. They also have the right to work in a safe environment. If a company does not provide these fair working conditions, they are in violation of the law.

Source: syracuse.com, “Worker rights advocates call for safety inspections at New York dairy farms” Rick Moriarty, Jan. 11, 2014

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