EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is the second in a series of online columns from University of Texas, School of Public Health assistant professor David Douphrate and his dairy industry colleagues about ways that dairy managers and owners can comply with health and safety regulations. Click here to read the first article in this series. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) authorizes the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to inspect job sites. Almost all OSHA inspections are unannounced. A U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA compliance officer may inspect the farm at any reasonable hour as a result of an employee complaint or a reportable accident.

Professor / University of Texas School of Public Health
Compliance Assistance Specialist / Wisconsin Eau Claire OSHA Area Office
Assistant Professor / Colorado State University
Graduate Student / Colorado State University

Inspection priorities
OSHA inspection priorities include the following:

  • imminent danger situations
  • investigations of fatalities and accidents resulting in death or hospitalization of three or more employees
  • formal employee complaints
  • referrals
  • follow-up inspections
  • planned or programmed inspections (local emphasis program or LEP) aimed at specific high-hazard industries, workplaces or occupations

LEPs are enforcement strategies designed and implemented at the regional office and/or area office levels. These programs are intended to address hazards or industries that pose a particular risk to workers in the office's jurisdiction.

OSHA officers have had to conduct five fatality inspections on Wisconsin dairy farms since 2006, and as a result announced a one-year LEP among Wisconsin dairies statewide.

This specific LEP was recently completed and included 12 Wisconsin dairies. OSHA plans to continue this LEP for a second year. For more information on the LEP in Wisconsin, contact Mary Bauer, compliance assistance specialist at the Eau Claire, Wisconsin, OSHA office.


Inspection events
Upon arrival at a dairy, an OSHA compliance officer must show proper credentials before inspection. Dairy employees should be made aware of whom the compliance officer should contact at the dairy. An alternate dairy contact should be identified if the primary person is not available.

Owners or managers should request seeing the compliance officer’s credentials. Each compliance officer should present U.S. Department of Labor credentials bearing a photograph and serial number which can be verified by phoning the nearest OSHA office.

Any person who tries to collect a penalty at the time of inspection or promote the sale of a product or services at any time is not an OSHA compliance officer.

An opening conference will take place when the purpose of the inspection will be presented. The compliance officer will explain why the dairy employer was selected. The compliance officer will determine if OSHA is authorized to conduct an inspection under the federal appropriations act (see last month’s article).

The compliance officer will also determine if an OSHA-funded consultation program visit is in process, which may exempt the employer from the inspection (OSHA has voluntary programs where an employer can work with OSHA to meet all applicable standards and during the process may be exempt from citations).

If the inspection was initiated due to an employee complaint, the employer will be given a copy of the complaint without the employee’s name. Employees will have the right to designate a representative to accompany the inspection officer.

Prior to the workplace inspection, the compliance officer will review written programs, training records, material safety data sheets (MSDS), OSHA logs and OSHA workplace poster and postings.

OSHA-300 (injury and illness logs) are required if the farm had 11 or more employees at any one time the previous 12 months. These injury records will be inspected, as well as the written hazard communication program. The compliance officer will then inspect the farm and will determine the walk-around procedure and duration of inspection. Inspections can take place anywhere work is performed by either employer or employee.

During the walk-through, the compliance officer will point out any unsafe or unhealthy work conditions that are found. The dairy representative should make every effort to make corrections immediately and work with the officer to discuss possible solutions.

Statements such as “I didn’t know that” could be a detriment since ignorance will not excuse a dairy owner for non-compliance. The dairy representative should ask for clarification and seek recommendations for correcting the identified hazard.

The dairy representative should document everything discussed during the walk-through and take similar photos and samples. The compliance officer may speak to employees, privately if desired, about issues such as safety orientation, training, safety meetings and job functions. At this time any problems or deficiencies in a safety program will be documented.

After the walk-through inspection, a closing conference will take place. The dairy employer will be advised of their rights of appeal.

The compliance officer will not propose any penalties since only the OSHA area director has the authority to assign a penalty after reviewing the full report.

Employers who are found in non-compliance will be notified by registered mail. Violations must be posted for three days or until abated. Employers are given 15 days to file a notice of contest and to request an informal conference with the OSHA area director.

Some state-plan states require the contest in order to have the informal conference. In federal OSHA states, an informal conference cannot take place if a notice of contest has been filed. Corrections must be made by the prescribed date unless the citation is being contested.

OSHA is authorized by the OSH Act to impose monetary penalties as a result of non-compliance with cited standards. A less serious violation is one where there is a direct relationship with job safety and health but probably would not cause death or serious harm.

These violations can result in penalties from $0 to $1,000. A serious violation is one where there is a high probability of accident resulting in death or serious injury.

An example would be working by an open power take-off (PTO) shaft or a missing guard. These violations can result in penalties from up to $7,000.

A willful (intentional) or knowing violation can result in penalties up to $70,000. A repeated violation can result in penalties up to $70,000, and falsification of records can result in penalties of $10,000 or more and jail time. A violation of posting requirements can also result in penalties of $7,000.

A de minimis violation does not have direct or immediate relationship to safety or health. Examples of this could be the lack of a privacy door for a commode. OSHA does not issue citations for de minimus violations.

Citations are not only costly but can confirm employee’s initial suspicions and create distrust and anxiety among a dairy’s employees. Since OSHA violations are available to the public, any cited violations may also damage a dairy’s reputation in the community.

Inspections on dairies
During a 10-year span from 2003 through 2012, a total of 614 dairy farms received OSHA inspections.

Of these, 57 percent were planned inspections, 19 percent were the result of an accident, 12 percent were the result of an employee complaint and 8 percent were the result of a referral.

Some of the more common citations were related to the following:

  • Lack of proper injury and illness prevention program
  • Lack of work injury recording and reporting
  • Lack of mounting or proper tagging of portable fire extinguishers
  • Inadequate communication program about hazardous chemicals
  • Inadequate process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals
  • Inadequate hazardous waste operation management and emergency response
  • Inadequate respiratory protection
  • Lack of roll-over protective structures (ROPS)
  • Inadequate guarding floor and wall openings and holes
  • Inadequate eye and face protection
  • Inadequate medical services and first aid
  • Inadequate guarding of field and farmstead equipment
  • Not wearing seatbelts when driving vehicles
  • Lack of training and injury prevention strategies related to animal handling
  • Lack of training for equipment such as skid steers

Click here for more information related to OSHA inspections, citations and penalties.

Upcoming articles will address regulatory standards and best practices related to worker safety and health issues such as injury and illness record-keeping, hazard communication related to chemicals, manure pits, safety training, safe machinery operation, livestock handling, emergency preparedness and human resource management. PD

Those with specific questions about complying with health and safety regulations can leave a comment below or click here to email Douphrate directly.

Dr. David Douphrate is an assistant professor at the University of Texas, School of Public Health. Douphrate conducts research and outreach related to worker health and safety through the High Plains and Intermountain Center for Agricultural Health and Safety (HICAHS), headquartered at Colorado State University.

Douphrate and his HICAHS colleagues conduct research and outreach with dairy producers to improve safe working environments while simultaneously improving dairy productivity and efficiency.

Mary Bauer is an OSHA compliance assistance specialist in the OSHA Eau Claire, Wisconsin, area office. Dr. William Brazile is an assistant professor and Kyle Root is a graduate student at Colorado State University.