Workplace safety laws provide general protections to workers and additional safeguards specific to production agriculture.

Background: A safe and healthful workplace is important for all workers. Farmers and agribusiness operators value their workforce and strive to ensure safety at all times. In the United States, workplace safety is governed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), which is administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Agriculture is an industry with some inherent dangers that can be minimized through appropriate investment, sound management, comprehensive worker training and other steps. Although on-the-job risks cannot be completely eliminated, they can and must be reduced.

Application to Agriculture: OSHA’s rules and inspections affect the agricultural industry in many ways. In fact, there are specific standards for agricultural operations that regulate agriculture and farm work. Standards for dust concentrations help avoid explosions in grain elevators, sugar refineries and other facilities. Some standards for limiting exposure to specific chemicals, such as cadmium, apply to agriculture. In crop, livestock and forestry production, several specific OSHA requirements are particularly important.

  • The slow-moving vehicle (SMV) emblem must be affixed to vehicles (such as tractors) that travel below 25 miles per hour on the road. The emblem alerts motorists and reduces the danger of collisions.
  • The anhydrous ammonia standard sets requirements for tanks on farm vehicles, including how they are to be filled, how the ammonia is to be applied and what information is to be given to employees.
  • The logging standard covers environmental conditions, clothing and personal protection, equipment and other aspects of logging for pulpwood or timber.
  • The temporary labor camp standard specifies how sites for temporary housing are to be selected, building construction standards, space, sanitation, cooking and eating space, toilet facilities and a variety of other requirements.
  • The roll-over protection standard requires protective structures on all tractors above 20 horsepower, with a few exceptions. Seatbelts must be installed and employee training is required.
  • The agricultural machinery guarding standard requires that all equipment have a completely guarded power take off (PTO) drive. The regulations specify signage, safeguards against automatic re-start of equipment, and employee training. OSHA also sets standards for protective frames and enclosures on tractors.

Administration and Enforcement: The OSH Act is enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an agency of the Department of Labor. OSHA enforces the OSH Act on farms with 10 or more employees.

Statutory Authority: 29 U.S.C. 651.

For more information, please refer to OSHA Page on Agricultural Standards and CDC NIOSH Health & Safety Topics.