Safety on the Job

It is important to pay attention during your trainings on the job and be informed of how to work safely to avoid accidents. Agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries. Dairy farmers have to work with heavy machinery as well as in close contact with animals.

Hazards related to this job include bruising or crushing injuries when handling animals, struck by or crushed by farm vehicles, slips, trips, and falls, noise from milking equipments, temperature extremes, chemical hazards, biological hazards, and ergonomic hazards. It is important to stay safe while you are working and this section provides resources on job safety, workers’ rights, and and labor laws.

A guide from Migrant Health Clinicians about how to avoid muscle injuries at work

Employers and Employees Working Together

In our experience, farmers and employers want to create a work environment that is as safe as possible. We see farmers provide trainings and informational meetings about practices on their farms so that workers are well-informed and have everything they need to perform their jobs safely. We generally see a mutual trust between employers and employees where they communicate and work together to ensure safety on the job.

Regardless, there are some cases where there is not a safe work environment and workers are not able to communicate about safety issues with their employers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created for instances like these. If you feel that you cannot communicate with your employer and advocate for your safety on the job, there is information below about how OSHA staff can help you.

Know Your Rights from OSHA*

*The US Department of Labor provides rules for farms to follow in order to provide a safe working environment. OSHA rules apply to all farms.  However, generally a farming operation is exempt from all OSHA inspection and enforcement activities if it employs 10 or fewer employees currently and at all times during the last 12 months. If a small farm engages in activities that are not related to farming operations and are not necessary to gain economic value from products produced on the farm, those activities are not exempt from OSHA enforcement.

Under federal law, you are entitled to a safe workplace. Your employer must provide a workplace free of known health and safety hazards. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.  If you have concerns, you have the right to speak up about them without fear of retaliation. You also have the right to:

  • Be trained in a language you understand
  • Work on machines that are safe
  • Be provided required safety gear, such as gloves or a harness and lifeline for falls
  • Be protected from toxic chemicals
  • Request an OSHA inspection, and speak to the inspector
  • Report an injury or illness, and get copies of your medical records
  • See copies of the workplace injury and illness log
  • Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses
  • Get copies of test results done to find hazards in the workplace

Safety and Health Complaint
If you believe working conditions are unsafe or unhealthful, you may file a confidential complaint with OSHA and ask for an inspection. If possible, bring the conditions to your employer’s attention.
The OSHA website gives you step by step information about how to file a complaint.

Protection from Retaliation
It is illegal for an employer to fire, demote, transfer or otherwise retaliate against a worker for using their rights under the law. If you believe you have been retaliated against in any way, file a whistleblower complaint within 30 days of the alleged retaliation.

To ask about a health and safety issue at your workplace, discuss your rights, or learn more about OSHA, contact them toll-free at 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA) or contact your nearest OSHA office below.

Western WI: Eau Claire Area Office
1310 W. Clairemont Avenue
Eau Claire, WI 54701
Phone: (715) 832-9019
Phone: (715) 832-114

Minnesota OSHA Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (MNOSHA)
443 Lafayette Road North
St. Paul, MN 55155-4307
Phone: (651) 284-5050
Phone: (877) 470-6742
Phone: (651) 284-5741

Worker’s Comp

Accidents do happen so if they do, know that the law protects you. This comic provides information about how an employee is covered by worker’s compensation insurance in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Minnesota: MN Safety on the Farm

Wisconsin: WI Safety on the Farm

LABOR LAWS

Minimum Wage

Employers are required by law to pay employees a minimum hourly wage.

Wisconsin’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Click here for more information on WI minimum wage.

Minnesota’s minimum wage is $8.15 per hour. Click here for more information on MN minimum wage.

Federal: Agricultural employees are generally note covered by federal minimum wage laws. Click here for more information.

Overtime laws

Wisconsin: Generally agricultural employees are not covered by Wisconsin’s overtime law. Click here for more information. 

Minnesota: Hourly agriculture employees in Minnesota must be paid overtime at the rate of time and a half the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 48 hours in a workweek.

Agriculture employees are exempt from the overtime provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). However, federal law does not supersede Minnesota’s requirement to pay overtime. Click here for more information on MN overtime laws for agricultural workers. 

In Minnesota, agriculture workers are exempt from state law overtime requirements if they are paid a certain minimum salary. The current law (2020) states that the minimum small-employer salary is $599.03/week and the minimum large-employer salary is $735.00/week.

Deduction from Wages for faulty Workmanship, Loss, Theft, or Damage

No employers can deduct for loss, theft, damage, or faulty workmanship unless the employee authorizes the deduction in writing after the incident happens and before any deductions are taken.

If an unauthorized deduction is made, the employer may be liable for twice the amount of the deduction.  

For more state specific information, click below:

Wisconsin                                           Minnesota

Employer Retaliation

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against any employee who:

-Files a complaint

-Attempts to enforce a right under certain statutes

-Testifies in a case

-Assists in a case under the state’s labor standards laws, such as employment of minors, minimum wage,hours of work and overtime, and wage payment.

Fair Employment

The law in both Minnesota and Wisconsin prohibits discrimination in all areas of employment against any qualified person because of sex, race, disability, age (40 and over), creed, color, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, marital status, arrest and conviction record, military status, use of lawful products and genetic testing. 

Getting your Final Paycheck

Employees who quit or are fired from their jobs must be paid in accordance with the employer’s established payroll schedule. Any worker who does not receive a final paycheck may file a wage claim complaint.

Wisconsin                           Minnesota

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