Do Farmers Have To Have Workers’ Compensation?

Aug 25, 2020 | Business Insurance

This may be one of the most common questions of a farmer. So to help you determine the best answer, it is vital to understand your state law regarding this matter as there are different guidelines depending on which state you operate your farm or ranch. Most states require farmer operators to carry their employees’ worker compensation for injuries.  But for some states who do not require workers compensation; an insured can elect to provide workers compensation on a voluntary basis even though it is not required to purchase the coverage.

But generally, the answer to this question is yes. Agricultural work is one of the most hazardous fields. Just imagine the nature of the work. They use physical labor and the kind of a workplace they have can tell how hard the job is. As a matter of fact,  this sector is the second to the largest in terms of claims for workers’ compensation each year. So if this field of work is that hazardous; being insured is a must! 

In this article we will deep dive into how worker’s compensation can be beneficial for both the employer and the employee.

A study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2017 states that farmers and agricultural employees have a fatality rate of 24.0 per 100,000 workers. This indicates that this industry has one of the highest chances of employees getting injured or could possibly inflict fatal injuries while performing daily tasks. 

Common Farmer Injuries  

  • Falls – According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of accidents from falls and slips is higher in this sector compared to other fields of work. It is no surprise since the workplace they are in is muddy and usually wet.  So just imagine a farmer going down from his tractor.  That gigantic truck may not be that super high but once your feet land on the slippery and uneven ground; keeping your balance is not that easy. Just one missed a step and you can easily fall on the ground in no time. Spinal, head and neck injuries from falls can be severe and even fatal. 
  • Different hazards and injuries caused by equipment – Cuts from knives, machine cutting tools,  hoes, and hammers are just some of the injuries a farmer can get.  Aside from that, hazards are also things that are inevitable in this kind of job.  A respiratory problem from contamination and inhaling different chemicals and pesticides.
  • Vehicular Accidents  – Motor accidents are very common in this sector. Just imagine a farmer driving a tractor in muddy soil. A lot can happen with just one mistake and miscalculation. One may even run over a co-worker in a glimpse. Injuries caused by tractors,  ATV, and harvester motors are common causes of accidents that killed many farmers each year. 
  • Heat – Anyone who stays under the sun for too long can suffer heat-related illnesses. How much more if that is your actual job.  Heatstroke,  dehydration,  heat exhaustion, hyperthermia, heat rash, and heat syncope. Are some of the illnesses anyone can get from staying under the harsh sun every day. Hence, these illnesses are very common in agricultural laborers. 

What are the benefits of having a worker’s compensation coverage for both employer and employee 

You might actually think that acquiring a workers’ compensation coverage provides few benefits over a huge amount of money.  But if you think about it these benefits will greatly impact the monetary resources of the employer whenever a work-related injury happens to the employee. 

Imagine, it’s supposed to be a normal working day when an unexpected incident occurred and interrupted the farm operation; because one of your plow operators accidentally fell from the vehicle and broke his leg. In this situation having covered by a worker’s compensation is beneficial. It is because it provides financial assistance for medical treatment and rehabilitation sessions for the injured employee. It also allows the employee to receive wage benefits as it is expected that the employee will not be able to perform his duties on the farm. Moreover, the rehabilitation process takes a long time and would mean temporary disability to the injured employee resulting in non-payment that would affect his everyday expenses.

This coverage does not only help the employee. The employer will also be protected if the injured person decides to file a lawsuit for a hazardous working environment. Yes they can opt-in doing that especially if they know that they are working in a state that mandates a workers’ compensation coverage. Also it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe working environment for their workers. This means a business owner should also provide proper tools, safety gear, training for safety measures, and evacuation plans. Lack of any of these may cause the employer a lot of money if things go south.

Which state requires worker’s compensation?

There are some states that require a farmer (Employer) to avail of a worker’s compensation coverage. This is to make sure that all workers (Employees) are protected from any injuries that may prevent them from doing their everyday tasks resulting in non-payment. As of August 2019, there are 13 states that mandate the acquisition of a workers compensation coverage these states are as follows:

  • California
  • Arizona
  • Hawaii
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Minnesota
  • Massachusetts
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • New jersey
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon 
  • Ohio

Some of the Unites States territories also requires workers compensation these are:

  • District of Columbia
  • US Virgin Islands
  • Puerto Rico

It is imperative for all farmers or Ranch owners (Employers) to determine if they are mandated to acquire worker’s compensation to avoid getting lawsuits from their respective states; which could potentially cost them to spend a huge amount of money on legal fees. It is advisable to speak with a licensed insurance agent or specialist so you can fully understand the benefits of the said coverage.

Which are the states that do not require worker’s compensation?

Not all states are strict when it comes to having a worker’s compensation coverage for farmers or ranchers (Employers). Even if you decide to employ migrant or seasonal employees, the following states will not require you to have workers compensation coverage:

  • Delaware
  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Kansas
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky 
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • South Carolina
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • North Dakota
  • Texas
  • Tennessee

In some other states, the said coverage is only limited to full-time employees. Those employed in specialty jobs, the ones that are employed on large farms and are limited to the number of work hours, and the likes. However if you as an employer hires a foreign worker which is under the H2-A Temporary Agricultural Program you are mandated to provide workers compensation for this type of employee; or at least an equivalent coverage to your other employees.

What is an H2-A Temporary Agriculture Program?

The H2-A Work Visa Program allows U.S.  employers/ agents who meet the specific requirements to employ non-immigrant or foreign nationals to perform agricultural labor and services on a seasonal or temporary nature.

If you have any questions or suggestions,  contact us today and we’ll help you get you set up with an insurance plan with the best coverage.