You may not think your operation will be the target of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection, think again.

Recent changes in the structure of the pork industry and the number of employees working in pork production have increased OSHA’s awareness of the industry, and with that, the number of inspections at pork production sites, says Ron McGill, OSHA area director for Tennessee and Kentucky.

According to McGill, 18 inspections were performed by federal level OSHA officials in the period between October 2004 and May 2006. Eleven of the operations inspected were found to be noncompliant at a cost of approximately $20,000 in penalties to each operation.

Citations at production sites include failure to have appropriate guarding on farm equipment;
lack of or inadequate personal protective equipment provided to employees; inappropriate protection in floors and wall openings, such as railings or walls; problems in grain handling facilities; faulty electrical wiring methods; lack of hazard communications, such as emergency evacuation signage; and inappropriate use of lock out/ tag out processes.

Large pork producers are not the only ones eligible for an OSHA visit, though. OSHA inspections can result from complaints or referrals, regardless of the size of an operation, says Robert Whitmore, chief of the OSHA division of recordkeeping requirements. OSHA also will investigate fatcat incidents, or fatality-catastrophe incidents, defined as those reporting a fatality or three injuries in one operation.

For producers of all sizes, providing a safe environment for the industry’s employees is not only the right thing to do, but is also the best way to avoid an OSHA inspection or reduce the fines associated if one should take place in his or her operation. Pork producers employing a safety program have also reported advantages such as a reduction in the cost of workers’ compensation, insurance premiums, a reduction in employee training and retention programs, etc.

Speakers at the 2006 Worker Safety Roundtable included producers with experience with OSHA inspections, professional pork production safety coordinators and academics. Most agreed that the first step toward a safer work environment is developing awareness for potential hazardous situations and hazards through training.

The National Pork Board has a resource for producers interested in starting a worker safety training program for employees. The system includes training materials, checklists, employee handbooks and digital media for on-farm use. The Pork Production Safety System kit is now available with translation for Spanish speaking employees. You can order the Pork Production Safety System materials by calling the Pork Store at (866) 490-5480 or accessing the pork store from the www.pork.org Web site.

For more information, contact Liz Wagstrom, LWagstrom@pork.org, or (515) 223-2633.

Source: National Pork Board