In recent months, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited several agribusiness employers for alleged violations of its standards, proposing significant penalties against them.
OSHA is the federal agency that adopts and enforces health and safety regulations for the workplace in 25 states, including Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. In the other 25 states, including North and South Carolina, state OSHA agencies enforce rules comparable to those of the federal agency.
Most OSHA citations are categorized as other-than-serious, serious, willful, and repeat. An alleged violation is “serious” if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists. An alleged violation is “willful” if the employer either knowingly failed to comply with a standard or acted with plain indifference to employee safety.
An OSHA citation is not a finding of fact, but rather only an allegation. Employers cited by the agency have the opportunity to contest citations and proposed penalties, and to present evidence that contradicts OSHA before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Below are summaries of five recent OSHA enforcement actions against employers in the farming industry:
Given OSHA’s focus on agricultural facilities, agribusiness employers should make safety and health compliance a top priority.
A good way to prepare for an OSHA inspection is to conduct an audit of facilities and operations. To do this, the employer must become knowledgeable about applicable OSHA standards and procedures.
In addition, developing written safety rules, implementing safety practices and training programs, and making sure all required documentation is up to date are good ways to reduce employee injuries and avoid OSHA citations and penalties.