Each year since 1976, the appropriations bill contains a rider that prohibits OSHA from spending funds on the enforcement of OSHA rules, regulations and standards for farming operations with 10 or fewer non-family employees.  And, there is no exception to this prohibition, such as for fatality or imminent danger cases.

OSHA has a directive on Enforcement Exceptions and as to farmers it states:

Enforcement Guidance for Small Farming Operations. The Appropriations Act exempts small farming operations from enforcement of all rules, regulations, standards or orders under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Under this enforcement guidance a farming operation is exempt from all OSHA activities if it: (1) Employs 10 or fewer employees currently and at all times during the last 12 months; and (2) Has not had an active temporary labor camp during the preceding 12 months. Note: Family members of farm employers are not counted when determining the number of employees.

On July 29, 2014, OSHA issued a “Policy Clarification on OSHA’s Enforcement Authority at Small Farms.”  In this policy, OSHA defines “farming operation” as:

Any operation involved in the growing or harvesting of crops or the raising of livestock or poultry, or related activities conducted by a farmer on sites such as farms, ranches, orchards, dairy farms or similar farming operations. Crop farming operations activities include preparing the ground, sowing seeds, watering, weeding, spraying, harvesting, and all related activities necessary for these operations, such as storing, fumigating, and drying crops grown on the farm.

The policy explains that OSHA considers onsite storage or the sale of grain on a farm as “related activity” and therefore small farms would still be exempt from OSHA jurisdiction.  However, OSHA claims that a small farm with grain handling operations for grain grown on other farms would not be exempt, nor would a small farm that has a food processing facility for items like processing cider from apples or milling flour and making baked goods.  These activities would be treated as grain handling and food processing operations and not small farming operations and therefore would be subject to OSHA jurisdiction even if they take place on a small farm.

A copy of the policy can be found online here.