Farmers Could Face OSHA Fines - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Farmers Could Face OSHA Fines

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BOZEMAN -

Farmers across the country could face fines from the Occupational Safety And Health Administration by changing decades-old exceptions.

Montana farmers aren't happy about that.

Farms and ranches that employ fewer than ten people and don't provide homes for temporary employees don't have to comply with costly OSHA regulations under an exception passed in 1976.

But in 2011 OSHA sent a memo to its regional directors stating they need to inspect farms performing post-harvest activities, such as cleaning crops, drying, sorting, grading and packing, as they are larger grain elevator operations.

But Montana Farm Bureau Vice President of Governmental Affairs John Youngberg said that's not right.

"We still think the exemption is there," said Youngberg. "We've been working with the department of labor on this."

Youngberg said some of the things OSHA is now inspecting on farms are costly to area farmers to make the changes.

"Tag in, tag out, you have to hang a tag on the door," said Youngberg. "You have to make sure the door is locked open when you go in the bin."

He said one of the things OSHA is fining farmers for is not having enclosed ladders on their grain bins, a requirement he said is not necessary.

"We aren't talking about bins that are 50 feet high here," said Youngberg. "We are talking about bins that are, we are talking about ones that's on someone's farm, eight maybe ten feet tall, so it is not a huge bin."

Youngberg advises farmers and ranchers to be safe around grain bins.

"We encourage people if they are using an auger inside the bin, or a sweep that sweeps the grain into the auger, to keep shielding in place, use shielding that comes with the auger."

Although OSHA hasn't fined any Montana farmer or rancher yet, they did fine a Nebraska farm $132,000.

Calls to OSHA weren't immediately returned.

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