OSHA looking to do more on-farm safety inspections

The Occupational Safety and Health Agency hasn’t spent a lot of time in recent years inspecting farm operations for worker safety compliance, but that’s about to change thanks to a new initiative being announced by the state OSHA office. During the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin annual meeting, Mary Bauer, an OSHA compliance assistant specialist, explained that a recent increase in on-farm fatalities is prompting the agency to add dairy farms to its list of inspection sites throughout the state.

Under current OSHA regulations, farms are exempt from OSHA inspections if they employ 10 or less workers at any given time of the year. But Bauer says farms of any size can be inspected if they offer temporary housing for its workers on the property.

“The bottom line is we want all farms to do what they can to create a safe environment for its workforce,” Bayer said. “OSHA won’t go and inspect every farm in the state. But we do want to stress that all farm employers are obligated to comply with OSHA regulations—no matter what size they are.”

Bauer says OSHA visits are always unannounced. A farming operation is defined as any business involved in the growing or harvesting of crops, raising livestock or poultry, or related activities conducted by a farmers on rural sites, according to the agency.

Matt Kiefer, an occupational health specialist with the National Farm Medicine Center in Marshfield, also weighed in on the topic. His group is helping farmers to become compliant if the producer feels they aren’t doing enough to implement proper safety measures on the farm.

“Farm safety isn’t just about injury prevent, it also involves disease control,” Kiefer said. “It’s the responsibility of the owner to identify any hazards on the property and to provide safety tools to their staff to keep them safe.”

The NFMC has also hired a new staff member to assist farms that need help with becoming OSHA compliant. Kiefer also says owners may have to do more of their own research on farm safety in the future because ag and rural safety funds have been cut in the proposed federal budget being considered by Congress.