On a gray winter’s day, the lovely tartness of a fresh citrus fruit can bring some light inside. Winter in the Northern Hemisphere is prime harvesting time for citrus, so fields in Florida are gearing up for an influx of workers to hand pick the fruits. Just in Florida, the industry generates tens of thousands of full and part time jobs and delivers $9 billion to the state’s economy yearly. It’s a crucial part of the economy, a source of income for many… and can be a dangerous profession.
Agriculture usually records an injury rate higher than the all-industry average. Citrus pickers are at particular risk from falls off ladders and back injuries from hauling heavy bags. Conditions in the fields can be muddy and slippery, workers can face danger from stinging and biting insects, and pesticide exposures can cause additional threat. Additionally, some farm workers might have limited education, language barriers, or questionable immigration status that might prevent them from speaking up about dangerous work practices.
Growers and producers should be sure to take their responsibility seriously and train supervisors and workers on good safety techniques in various languages as appropriate. It should be as safe to process food as it is to consume it in the United States.
For more information on the impact safety can have on agricultural workers, read this article from the CDC.