Johanns Gets Response from DOL on OSHA

According to a letter from Brian Kennedy - the Department of Labor's Assistant Secretary of the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs - the department is going to update its guidance on grain bin safety enforcement. The letter was delivered to Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns - who led a large group of Senators in a letter complaining that the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration was enforcing regulations on small farms despite a 1976 law that exempted small farms from such regulation. Kennedy's letter notes that the Labor Department prohibits OSHA activity on farms employing 10 or fewer employees that don't maintain a temporary labor camp. But he points to a dramatic increase in the number of workers entrapped and suffocated in grain storage structures while performing grain handling operations in 2010. The department responded by ramping up its inspection program - and cut down on such accidents. Regarding a 2011 OSHA memo Johanns had referred to - which the Senator said asserted on-farm grain storage and handling was not part of farm operations - Kennedy wrote that it was meant to provide clarification and not to change OSHA policy. He said the memo has been withdrawn to avoid any confusion and the department will issue new guidance following consultation with USDA and farm organizations. Further - in cases of uncertainty - Kennedy told Johanns that OSHA has instructed its Field Offices to request clarification from the National Office when determining if farming operations are exempt.

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