Web Exclusive! OSHA for Vegetable, Fruit and Nut-Producing Trees


OSHA Overview for
Vegetable, Fruit and

by Chris E. Marsh, M.Ed.

Part 1: An Introduction

    This is the first in a series of monthly web exclusive features about our industry and OSHA regulations.

        You may be wondering why Growing is presenting a series of articles about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The simple answer is that along with general industry, construction and maritime business, OSHA also inspects agriculture producers. The federal government should obey OSHA regulations, and OSHA compliance officers can investigate accidents or complaints. State and local government is not covered under federal OSHA, while state OSHA plans cover state and local government.

        There are only three exceptions to OSHA coverage. They are the self-employed; farmers where only immediate family members work on the farm; and industries regulated by other government agencies such as the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Transportation and the Coast Guard.

        This first article is going to basically be an introduction to OSHA so you are aware of some of the OSHA regulations that do not always affect direct contact with business owners or their workers.

        OSHA was established by the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. This law requires that every employer covered under the Act furnish to his or her employees employment and a place of employment that are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. The law also requires that employers comply with occupational health and safety standards set under the Act, and that employees comply with these standards, rules, regulations and orders issued under the law which are applicable to their own actions and conduct. The Act authorizes the Department of Labor (OSHA is a part of the Department of Labor) to conduct inspections and to issue citations and proposed penalties for alleged violations.

        Establishment means a single physical location where business in conducted or where services or industrial operations are performed. Where distinctly separate activities are performed at a single physical location, each activity shall be treated as a separate physical establishment and a separate notice, or notices, shall be posted (the "OSHA poster") in each establishment. In the writer's interpretation, this would mean that if you were raising vegetables on acreage and then canning them for wholesale or retail sale, then you would come under both the agriculture section and general industry side of OSHA.

        Where employers are engaged in activities that are physically dispersed, the notice, or notices, shall be posted at the location to which employees report each day. Where employees do not usually work at, or report to, a single establishment from which the employees operate to carry out their activities. As a practical example, if employees came to the main office each day and then several went to different fields or farms, the notice would need to be posted in the main office, not on each farm or gate post.

        Section 5(a) (1) of the Williams-Steiger Act is also known as the General Duty Clause. This is the part of the law that says if there is an accident or death, and OSHA does not have a regulation that specifically applies to this incident, the employer can be cited by this section of the law just as if there were a specific standard.

        According to OSHA, court precedence, and the OSHA review commission, if the following elements are present, the general duty clause may be applied.
  1. The employer(s) failed to keep the workplace free of a hazard to which employees of that employer were exposed.
  2. The hazard was recognized (usually by an employee or even OSHA).
  3. The hazard was causing or was likely to cause death or serious physical harm. An example would be not providing for excessive heat by not providing water, rest periods, shade (if possible) or other accepted methods of heat-related worker safety.
  4. There was a feasible and useful method to correct the hazard.
        The reader can find the actual OSHA Occupational Safety and Health Standards for Agriculture by going to www.osha.gov and entering 29 CFR 1928 in the search box in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.

        Following are the applicable standards found in the General Industry regulations (29 CFR 1910).
  1. Temporary labor camps
  2. Storage and handling of anhydrous ammonia
  3. Logging operations
  4. Slow-moving vehicles
  5. Hazard communication
  6. Cadmium
  7. Retention of DOT markings, placards and labels (1910.1201).
        Finally, the following sections of 29 CFR 1928 apply specifically to agriculture.
  1.  1928.51-Roll-over protective structures (ROPS) for tractors used in agricultural operations
  2. 1928.2-Protective frames for wheel-type agricultural tractors-test procedures and performance requirements
  3. 1928.53-Protective enclosures for wheel-type agricultural tractors-test procedures and performance requirements
  4. 1928.57-Guarding of farm field equipment, farmstead equipment and cotton gins
  5. 1928.110-Field sanitation
        These are the topics that apply to agriculture as a whole. We will cover five or six more topics with specific regulations for the vegetable, fruit or nut tree grower.

Chris E. Marsh, M.Ed. operates Brandywine Farms and Ogeechee Training Service in Statesboro, Ga. The farm operation is mostly vegetables with the intention of planting more nut trees and fruits and berries. He is an OSHA authorized outreach trainer and part of his outreach is writing articles about OSHA in addition to providing on site health and safety training. He can be reached at 912-865-4500 or chrisemarsh@yahoo.com.

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