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When You Need to Report to OSHA

July 23, 2010

A farmer’s employee was in the field planting when he died, apparently of natural causes such as a heart attack or stroke while on the job. Does the farmer have to notify the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)? It depends.

An agricultural exclusion specifically prevents OSHA from enforcing any of its regulations on a farming operation that employs 10 or fewer employees and does not have a temporary labor camp. That means you do not need to keep OSHA injury and illness records.


The OSHA exclusion for farms with fewer than 10 employees can be tricky to find, however, as it is inserted annually into the OSHA appropriation statute rather than codified into the substantive law. Because it is not part of the law, the exemption also can be discontinued.

Section 1904.39 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 says all employers covered by the Act must report to OSHA any workplace incident that results in a fatality, or the hospitalization of three or more employees.

But the death must be work-related in order to require reporting: According to OSHA, work-relatedness is presumed for injuries and illnesses resulting from events or exposures occurring in the work environment if and only if it is a discernable cause of the injury or illness or of a significant aggravation to a pre-existing condition—resulting in injury or illness (including death) that would otherwise not have occurred.

For USDA information on OSHA, visit: /files/ah719c.pdf

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