Family operations exempted from rule

By ANNA WILLARD

Capital Press

A legislative mandate will require farmers and ranchers who employ non-family members either to hold safety meetings or have a safety committee effective Jan. 1, 2011.

"We want to make sure they're thinking about getting this in place before Jan. 1," said Melanie Mesaros, Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration public information officer.

The determining factor in deciding whether to form a committee or have meetings is the number of employees. An operation with 10 or fewer employees is required to have safety meetings. Those with more than 10 employees need to have a safety committee, Mesaros said.

Training also needs to be presented in a manner that the employees understand. For example, if the employees' first language is Spanish, the material needs to be presented in Spanish, Mesaros said.

The mandate applies to full- and part-time employees, but not to seasonal workers.

"We are requiring (seasonal workers to) have basic safety awareness training," Mesaros said.

The rule also does not apply to family operations that employ only family members and are not covered by workers' compensation insurance.

For those farms that are required to comply with this law, meetings are to be run by an employer representative, such as a manager or an owner. Committees need to have a minimum of two members, an employer representative and an employee representative.

Ideally, a representative from all major activities taking place on the operation would be on the committee, she said.

"It's good when people volunteer for (representative) positions. It shows they're interested in safety issues," Mesaros said.

Whether a farm or ranch has a safety committee or conducts meetings, the organization needs to hold a meeting once a month and keep records of the meetings. The date of the meeting and names of those present are a couple of things required to keep in meeting records, she said.

Record requirements differ between safety meetings and safety committees.

Committee members also need to be trained in hazard identification and accident investigation. The training can be done on OSHA's website or a consultant can show committee members what they should be looking for. Consultations are completely separate from OSHA enforcement and can also be requested on the website, Mesaros said.

In Oregon's 2007 legislative session, House Bill 2222 was passed requiring all public and private employers to do the same starting Jan. 1, 2009. The bill exempted agriculture until 2011.

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