The Occupational Safety and Health Administration: What you should know

We all have the right to a safe workplace. In 1970, Congress passed a law called the Occupational Safety and Health Act. This law requires that employers provide their employees with working conditions that are free from known hazards. When the law was passed, an administration was created called the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which sets and enforces protective workplace safety and health standards. These standards limit the amount of hazardous chemicals workers can be exposed to, require the use of certain equipment, and require employers to monitor hazards and to keep records of workplace injuries and illnesses. OSHA also provides information and training to workers and employers. As agricultural workers, if there are ten or more employees working for an employer, and these farm workers are not in the immediate family of the employer, you are protected by this administration.

Approximately one half of farmworkers are Hispanic. OSHA requires that employers conduct all required training of workers in a language and vocabulary the workers can understand. Farmworkers are covered by several OSHA standards including Agriculture and General Industry. If you believe there is a serious hazard at your workplace, or that your employer is not following OSHA safety standards, you can ask OSHA to inspect your workplace.

The following are regulations that an agricultural employer must follow in order to ensure the safety of farmworkers:

  • Temporary labor camps must provide shelter, water supply, toilet facilities, lighting, trash disposal, an operating kitchen, dining hall and feeding facilities, insect and rodent control and first aid.
  • Agricultural employers are required to provide employees who do hand labor operations in the field with potable drinking water, toilet facilities, and hand-washing facilities (and to maintain these facilities), to inform employees of the importance of practicing good hygiene.
  • Agricultural employers are required to provide employees with information about the hazardous chemicals, other than pesticides, to which they might be exposed.

For more information about these regulations and more, visit: www.osha.gov

If you file a complaint against your workplace with OSHA, you can tell OSHA to not let your employer know who filed the complaint. It is a violation of the Act for an employer to fire, demote, transfer or discriminate in any way against a worker for filing a complaint or using other OSHA rights.

For more information about your rights, employer standards, and how to file a complaint with OSHA, visit: www.osha.gov/workers.