On Sept. 11, 2014, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a final rule requiring employers to notify OSHA when an employee is killed on the job or a single employee suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye. The rule will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015, for workplaces under federal OSHA jurisdiction.

Under this revised rule, employers will be required to notify OSHA of work-related fatalities within 8 hours, and work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations or losses of an eye within 24 hours.

Previously, OSHA's regulations required an employer to report only work-related deaths and/or incidents requiring hospitalizations of three or more employees. Reporting single cases of hospitalizations, amputations or loss of an eye was not required under the previous rule.

All employers covered by OSHA, and even those who are exempt from maintaining injury and illness records (small farms with 10 or less employees and/or no temporary labor camp), are required to comply with OSHA's new severe injury and illness reporting requirements.

OSHA’s record keeping regulation is online. To assist employers in fulfilling these requirements, OSHA is developing a web portal for employers to report incidents electronically, in addition to the phone reporting options.

Three options are available to report these unfortunate incidents:

1.   By telephone to the 24-hour OSHA hotline (1-800-321-OSHA or 1-800-321-6742).

2.   By telephone to the OSHA Area Office nearest to the site of the work-related incident.

3.   Electronically, using the event reporting application that will be located on OSHA’s website.

The Appropriations Act exempts small farming operations from the enforcement of all rules, regulations, standards or orders under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. A farming operation is exempt from all OSHA enforcement and inspection activities if it:

• Employs 10 or fewer employees currently and at all times during the last 12 months (One part-time employee equals one full-time employee, immediate family members are not considered to be employees); and

• Has not had an active temporary labor camp during the preceding 12 months.

• To be considered a temporary labor camp, housing maintained by a farm must be provided: 1. As a required condition of employment, and; 2. for a discrete, temporary period of time (i.e. for seasonal or temporary employment).

• If a small farm does not meet both of these requirements, they would not be considered to have a temporary labor camp and would not be subject to any OSHA inspection or enforcement activities.

However, it is very important to note that small farms are not actually exempt from OSHA regulations because:

• Legally, OSHA regulations still covers all farms, even though OSHA cannot inspect or cite farms with 10 or fewer employees. The Appropriations Act prevents OSHA from inspecting or citing small farms, but for legal purposes, the regulations still apply.

• In a court of law, OSHA rules and regulations may be used to identify safe and unsafe conditions on the farm.

• There are state OSHA programs – Individual states may have more stringent regulations if they have an OSHA approved state program. There are 25 states that have a state-approved program. These state OSHA program regulations can exceed the federal OSHA regulations and be more protective.

New York has an approved state program for public employees only; private sector employees are covered by federal OSHA.

New York program available

As always, NYCAMH is available to assist farms with safety programming and planning. We are a private, non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of injury and illness that may occur to agricultural workers. We fulfill this mission by offering the on-farm safety program, which consists of farm safety surveys and farm safety training sessions for farms in New York. Our on-farm safety surveys identify potential farm hazards around the farm. Our training programs are farm specific and can be provided in Spanish. These services are available through a grant from the New York State Department of Labor Hazard Abatement Board. We also have a farm emergency response program offering training in CPR, first aid, fire safety and what to do in an emergency. Contact me at 800-343-7527 ext 2216 or jcarrabba@nycamh.com to schedule these programs or for more information about our services. NYCAMH, a program of Bassett Healthcare Network is enhancing agricultural and rural health by preventing and treating occupational injury and illness.