Inspections Agriculture, forestry and fishing

OSHA withdraws small-farm inspector guidance; promises revision

grain bins 021214

Photo: iStock/Thinkstock/Dervin Witmer

Washington – OSHA has withdrawn from its website a guidance document for compliance officers who inspect grain storage facilities, stating that it is working on a new version to ease concerns that the guidance ignored a law exempting family farms from OSHA inspections.

On Jan. 14, Republicans on the House Education and the Workforce Committee wrote to OSHA administrator David Michaels. The letter claims the inspection guidance, issued in June 2011, redefined anything outside of growing crops or raising livestock – including grain storage – as a “non-farming operation.” This could allow OSHA to inspect family farms that store grain and have 10 or fewer workers, despite an appropriations law that prohibits the agency from doing so.

In a response sent Feb. 10, Brian Kennedy, assistant secretary for the Department of Labor’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, said OSHA would consult with the Department of Agriculture and organizations representing farmers to draft a new guidance document to ensure inspectors understand agency policies, authority and limitations regarding small farming operations.

The original guidance document was issued as part of an OSHA grain storage safety campaign after an increase in worker deaths related to grain engulfments.