At our law firm, we represent injured workers throughout the state of Maryland in their claims for Workers’ Compensation benefits. We recently published a blog about the industries with the most fatalities and, not surprisingly, farmers and agricultural workers made the top 10 list.
The Baltimore Sun has reported that the chicken-farming industry is exploding, particularly on the Eastern Shore, but also across the state. The article describes the chicken industry as “the heavyweight of Maryland agriculture,” ranking ninth among all states. Chicken-industry “cash receipts” comprise more than 40 percent of Maryland farm sales.
Of course, new chicken operations are not like traditional chicken farms. New industrial-scale poultry farms have giant chicken house and thousands more birds than those of the past. Work on these mega-farms is inherently dangerous.
According to Poultry World, workers on these farms are constantly subject to specific hazards, some of them environmental, requiring careful management by owners. Injured workers, however, should remember that fault is not a factor in eligibility for workers’ compensation. An employee hurt on the job has the right to benefits no matter the circumstances of the accident or environmental exposure.
Agricultural workers on chicken farms are at risk of harm from:
- Dangerous gases, especially ammonia
- Contagious diseases and infections from the birds
- Airborne dust containing feathers, dander, bacteria, fungal spores and more
- Chemicals like vaccines, detergents, pesticides, formaldehyde, chlorine and disinfectants
- Falls while moving heavy items
- Hot equipment
- Sharp equipment
- Dangerous noise levels
- Extreme temperatures, both hot and cold
- Repetitive motions
- Dangerous bacteria
- Heavy lifting
Common injuries include warts, infectious diseases, musculoskeletal injuries, traumatic injuries, eye and skin irritation, burns, respiratory problems (bronchitis, asthma, chronic airway obstruction, wheezing, phlegm production), zoonotic diseases (salmonellosis, avian influenza, tuberculosis and others), bone splinter infections, rashes, cuts, back injury, repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, reduced sensation and weakness in fingers, and even death.
Seek legal advice for Workers’ Compensation questions
Any poultry worker injured or who contracted an occupational disease in a chicken operation like a farm or hatchery should seek immediate legal help with his or her Workers’ Compensation claim.