CowsSubmitted by Cornell University  

(Oct. 2013) All dairy farmers should know if they fall under OSHA enforcement authority. For those that do not, if OSHA officials visit, information can be provided that should terminate the inspection. For farms that are subject to OSHA enforcement authority, preparations should begin as soon as possible.


In August 2013, PRO-DAIRY  learned from an OSHA official that the Syracuse office of the US Department of Labor, OSHA Division, is developing a “Local Emphasis Program” that will focus on random, unannounced compliance inspections at New York State dairy farms starting sometime in 2014.  At the time of this writing, it is unclear if the LEP will be conducted statewide or regionally.

OSHA can inspect certain businesses based on four priorities:

1)         Imminent danger

2)         Catastrophes and fatal accidents

3)         Complaints and referrals

4)         Programmed inspections

While regulated farms can be inspected under any one of these OSHA priorities, the upcoming focus on NYS dairy farms is related to item 4:  Programmed inspections.  Farms that are subject to a Programmed inspection have:

had more than 10 employees, not including immediate family members, at any time in the past 12 months preceding the day an inspector shows up (a part time employee counts as “1”); and/

or provided housing to temporary labor (employees hired for a specific period of time and are not full-time, permanent staff) at any time in the past 12 months preceding the day an inspector shows up, even if the housing was only for just one person.  There are several tests for this provision and producers should evaluate further.

Though safety should be a priority at any farm operation, farms that do not fall into the above categories are not subject to OSHA activities.

We understand that the first task of an OSHA inspector during a visit is to determine if the farm is eligible for inspection activity.  If the farm is exempt, inspectors depart the farm immediately.  Therefore, it is important for a dairy producer and staff to know if the farm meets the OSHA exemption.  This is likely to generate some questions, and there will be regional meetings this fall to help sort out these issues.  OSHA has also been very clear that inspectors will NOT ask about employee immigration status.

What’s being done?

Since the OSHA notification, PRO-DAIRY and the following organizations have formed the “OSHA Work Group”: NY Farm Bureau (NYFB), Northeast Dairy Producers Association (NEDPA), NY Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health (NYCAMH), and Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE).  Our goal is to help the NYS dairy farm community prepare for OSHA inspections.  The OSHA Work Group cooperated with Farm Credit East to develop and record two informational webinars on what to expect in an OSHA inspection (link provided below).

The OSHA Work Group has determined that due to OSHA inspection issues covering a broad range of topics, currently, there does not appear to be a comprehensive, up to date program for compliance education/training in NYS.  However, over time, NYCAMH has developed numerous materials and trainings that cover health and safety programs relating to OSHA compliance topics.  The Work Group is cooperating closely with NYCAMH to identify gaps as well as add to and update their materials and build on the excellent foundation already established.

Many aspects of health and safety requirements are FARM SPECIFIC; each farm has different chemicals, machinery and facilities and this means managers must develop a customized health and safety program for their conditions.

There appears to be few cookie cutter approaches to OSHA compliance and a successful inspection will require thoughtful preparation and ongoing commitment by farm managers and employees.  Compliance will require farm-specific analysis and planning, safety equipment purchases, training and periodic updates for staff (this is not a once-and-done process), routine self-inspections to find hazards, recordkeeping and efforts to maintain equipment and systems once compliant.

The OSHA Work Group is cooperating with OSHA regional compliance assistance staff to confirm the areas of emphasis for inspections, to identify and correct gaps in training materials, to identify conflicts with other rules and to make sure that existing training materials are consistent with what OSHA inspectors will be evaluating on dairy farms.  Our goal is that farm managers get the right information the first time.  The Work Group is also developing a compliance checklist.  These and other materials will be widely circulated as soon as they are available.

What can I do now?

If you have not already done so, watch the two OSHA related webinars on the Farm Credit East Web site:

There are a few areas that non-exempt farms can work on right away as part of preparing for an OSHA inspection by implementing the following items:

PTO drive units and shafts are properly shielded and protected (same for belts, chains and rotating shafts on other equipment and machinery around the operation);

Slow moving vehicle emblems are clean, bright and not faded and equipment safety lighting is in good working order;

Farm tractors manufactured after October 25, 1976 are equipped with a Roll Over Protection Structure (ROPS) and a seat belt in good working order (there are two exceptions:  low profile tractors and tractors when used with mounted equipment that is not compatible with ROPS);

Develop an inventory list of all chemicals, create a file with MSDSs (in Spanish where appropriate) for each chemical and make sure all chemical containers are labeled.  MSDSs can be obtained directly from the manufacturer.

In the coming weeks, the OSHA Work Group will provide a farm safety checklist and PRO-DAIRY will hold OSHA informational meetings and farm safety walks around NYS; further information on these items will be released as soon as details are finalized.

PRO-DAIRY’s mission is to facilitate New York State economic development by increasing the profitability and competitiveness of its dairy industry. PRO-DAIRY specialists have made a positive impact on the technical knowledge, management skills and economic strength of New York State’s dairy industry since 1988. Visit PRO-DAIRY online at



By martha

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