Sampson County assisting migrant workers

By Marcus Branch, REHS - Health department

Sampson County remains a major provider of agriculture goods in North Carolina, and it continues to support the ever increasing needs of a growing state and nation today.

Sampson County is known to be a popular stopover for migrant populations looking for work during the fall and spring of every year. With a booming agriculture economy, a continuous stream of hard working laborers are needed to work the land and guarantee productive crop yield each year.

These foreign migrations bring lots of challenges to local health departments dedicated to providing safe living conditions for those who reside in their counties. Farmers who rely on these workers for their livelihood provide housing and amenities adequate enough to protect their workers from various environmental health- related diseases.

The Sampson County Environmental Health Department has been an ongoing partner with these local farmers in providing adequate living and sanitary conditions for short-term workers coming into the county for many decades now. The North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) is the authoritative agency spearheading the monitoring of housing at these labor camps all over the state. Local health departments, like Sampson County, work alongside NCDOL Agriculture Safety and Health Bureau in verifying that the camp locations are appropriate for short term residency.

Each year, farmers who host migrant laborers, request local inspectors from county health departments to evaluate each camp’s water and sewer safety. County inspectors on these annual visits test well water used for drinking as well as verify that onsite septic disposal systems are sized and working efficiently. Once the health inspectors have concluded their onsite evaluations and found everything in compliance, a preoccupancy report is completed and sent to the NCDOL.

Once NCDOL receives the preoccupancy report from the health department for a particular farmer, NCDOL will initiate its field agents to conduct onsite inspections of living quarters. Living quarter inspections done by NCDOL Agriculture Safety and Health Bureau usually Intel inspections of electrical connections, pesticide safety information, hot water supply, laundry facilities, fire protection, and other living conditions.

These inspections are completed according to the OSHA Standards for Temporary Labor Camps (29 CFR 1910.142) and the Migrant Housing Act standards (N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 95-222 through 95-299.1) listed in the Migrant Housing Inspection Checklist (the Checklist). Once the Farmer has completed the required annual inspections with no violations, the NCDOL will allow laborers to occupy camps for that growing season.

These processes help guarantee that camp facilities and amenities are in good standing and working order in providing safety requirements to help protect the workers and their health. Healthy workers help assure a productive and fruitful growing season. This productivity helps to insure the continual growth of Sampson County’s economy into the future.

By Marcus Branch, REHS

Health department

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