Farm worker injuries on the rise as workforce ages

Farmworkers in California are getting older, and as they grow older, they're more likely to get hurt. The simple fact of aging -- no matter who you are or what kind of job you perform -- will increase the chances of developing an on-the-job injury. However, when it comes to a 10-hour shift hauling heavy bags of veggies and performing other farming tasks, the likelihood of injury is higher, especially if you're in your late 40s, 50s and beyond.

The average age of farmworkers in California is 45, and most of them were born in Mexico. However, fewer Mexicans are moving to the United States these days as a result of stricter border controls, higher smuggling costs and the growing middle class in Mexico. This means that the hardest jobs on the farm are left to an increasingly older workforce, which creates the risk of more on-the-job farming injuries.

Working as a farmer can be a backbreaking job

Bunching mustard leaves involve a hunched over position that takes its toll when a worker has to perform the job day in and day out. Farming jobs test the strength and endurance of the human body like this. According to one farmer featured in a recent article, he's 67 years of age and suffers from pain that shoots down his leg. The man said that he also suffers from pain in his hands, but hopes he can work until he's 77 and then collect Social Security.

One of the biggest complaints among farmworkers relates to chronic pain. Older workers are also prone to foot infections, breathing problems caused by pesticides, back pain and arthritis. Many workers also suffer from diabetes, but their work results in missing their insulin injections because they don't have a place to refrigerate the medicine. They'll also skip going to the doctor because they can't get paid on the days they don't work.

Workers are afraid to take days off

Older workers -- who want to secure their jobs and show that they can work as hard as their younger competitors -- are prone to keep working rather than taking a day off to rest. They rarely take days off and in a lot of cases, they can't afford to take days off.

Many field workers delay their health care, which can result in worsening conditions. In fact, research has shown that older Latino workers are more likely to find themselves in the hospital due to delaying their health care compared to older white workers.

Farmworkers: Learn about your workers' compensation rights

Injured farmworkers may be able to get money to pay for their medical care by filing a workers' compensation claim. The problem is, many workers don't know about their legal rights in this regard. A statewide education campaign could help educate workers in this regard, so they know that -- when the hardest aspects of their jobs catch up with them physically -- they can get wage replacement benefits to take time off work, and they can get money to pay their doctors' bills.

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