Two Important Items from OSHA

By: Jacqueline B. Jones

OSHA has recently come out with a new interpretation that can impact many Central New York businesses and also a new inspection program for dairy farmers:

AVOIDING A UNION AFFILIATED WORKER ADVOCATE

All employers should have a plan in place to manage an OSHA inspection. That process starts with developing a sound internal health and safety program. Education on the recognized hazards for your industry and a good self-inspection checklist is an important first step. Getting a buy-in by employees is crucial and can be assisted by forming a health and safety committee involving employees at all levels in the workplace.

When an OSHA compliance officer walks in your door, there should be a plan in place as to which employer representatives should be immediately contacted.  The employer representative should have an action plan on how to respond, which includes asking the purpose of the visit and then managing the inspection based on the type of inspection and the information requested.

Recently, OSHA has changed its interpretation of who may participate as the employee representative during OSHA on-site inspections.  Now, in a non-unionized employment setting, OSHA may allow a union-affiliated worker advocate to participate in the walk around inspection.  Non-union employers, particularly those targeted by unions, can ask their safety committee to designate employee representatives who will be available to participate in any OSHA walk around inspections, which may cause OSHA to decide that an outside, union-affiliated worker advocate is unnecessary.

LESSONS FROM THE DAIRY DOZEN:  MANAGING OSHA INSPECTIONS

Beginning July 1, 2014, OSHA is inspecting dairy farms in a 24 county Central New York Region, pursuant to a new Local Emphasis Program (“LEP”) looking for the “dairy dozen” hazards.  LEPs target regions with industries with a high injury/illness rate.  Under this LEP , OSHA compliance officers conduct random/unannounced inspections if the dairy farm has eleven (11) or more employees on any day prior to the inspection or if they have had an active temporary labor camp during the last twelve (12) months.  These unannounced compliance inspections are fit in between OSHA’s other higher priority inspections which include complaints or accidents, including fatalities.

The LEP focuses on the “dairy dozen”  hazards, which are:

  1. Manure storage and collection structures;
  2. Dairy bull and cow behavior/worker positioning;
  3. Electrical systems;
  4. Skid steer operation;
  5. Tractor operation;
  6. Guarding of PTO’s (power take off devices);
  7. Other farm and farmstead equipment and machine guarding;
  8. Lock out and unexpected energy release and maintenance;
  9. Hazard communication;
  10. Confined spaces;
  11. Horizontal bunker silos; and
  12. Noise.

In order to avoid expensive fines, dairy farmers should review the extensive materials available on OSHA’s website on the “dairy dozen” hazards to correct issues which are not fully compliant before OSHA knocks on your dairy farm’s door.

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