• Information Date:
  • Agreement Agency:
    Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)

Memorandum of Understanding
The U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
The U.S. Department of Agriculture
Food Safety and Inspection Service


The purpose of this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is to delineate policies, procedures and responsibilities which will guide the working relationship of the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

Specifically, this MOU establishes a process and framework to: 1)train FSIS meat and poultry inspection personnel to improve their ability to recognize serious workplace hazards within the meat and poultry industry; 2) reinforce procedures for meat and poultry inspection personnel to report unsafe and unhealthy working conditions to which they are exposed th the appropriate authorities: 3)institute new procedures for meat and poultry inspection personnel to refer to OSHA serous workplace hazards affecting plant employees: and 4) coordinate possible inconsistencies between OSHA job safety and health standards and FSIS sanitation and health standards.

This agreement establishes a foundation for the training of FSIS inspectors in the recognition of serious workplace hazards and for a referral system.

It is not OSHA's expectation or desire that through this training FSIS inspectors would be able to supplant OSHA expertise in identifying serious workplace hazards/ FSIS inspectors will be trained in a manner and to a degree established under Section VI. of this agreement. FSIS inspectors will be trained to recognize and refer serious workplace hazards (see expected to, identify, evaluate, or refer serious workplace hazards affecting plant employees that tend to arise only after protracted, cumulative exposure, such as those related to repetitive motion and noise.


For purposes of this agreement, a serious workplace hazard is a condition such that there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result. Examples of these types of hazards appear in the attached appendix.


This MOU is authorized under general and specific OSHA and FSIS statutory authorities. General OSHA and FSIS statutory authorities permit each agency to enter into agreements with other Federal agencies in order to further the legislative objectives listed below. Specific statutory authorities for each agency are as follows:


1. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established under the authority of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA Act) of 1970 (P.L. 91-596) which authorizes the Secretary of Labor to assure safe and healthful working conditions for men and women by "authorizing enforcement of standards developed under the Act; assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions; and providing for research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health."

2. Section 7(c)(1) of the OSH Act authorizes the Secretary "to use, with the consent of any Federal agency, the services, facilities, and personnel of such agency" in carrying out his or her responsibilities.

3. Section 18 of the OSH Act provides for States which desire to assume responsibility for the development and enforcement of occupational safety and health standards within their borders, to submit a State plan for OSHA for approval. Upon approval, these States, referred to as Plan States, may operate their own Federally-monitored safety and health programs which must be "at least as effective as" the Federal program.

4. Section 19 of the OSH Act requires the head of each Federal agency to establish and maintain an effective and comprehensive occupational safety and health program and to provide safe and healthful places and conditions of employment for Federal employees, consistent with the standards promulgated under the OSH Act. Executive Order No. 12196, issued in accordance with Section 19, gives Federal employees the right to report unsafe and unhealthful working conditions to the appropriate Federal authorities.


1. FSIS is responsible for administering and enforcing the Federal Meat Inspection Act (21 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) and the Poultry Products Inspection Act (21 U.S.C. 451 et seq.) which authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to promulgate such rules and regulations as are necessary for the efficient execution of the provisions of these acts. These rules and regulations prescribe requirements designed to assure that meat, meat food products, and poultry products, capable of use as human food, will not be adulterated or misbranded when delivered to the consumer.

2. Section 301(c) of the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and section 5(c) of the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) provide that States must develop and effectively enforce, with respect to establishments operating wholly in intrastate commerce in the State, requirements "at least equal to" those under the FMIA and PPIA.


The content of this agreement is not intended to diminish or otherwise affect the authority or responsibilities of OSHA or FSIS to administer their respective statutory functions. FSIS meat and poultry personnel are not agents of OSHA and their presence in no way relieves meat and poultry industry employers or employees of their responsibilities under the OSH Act.



OSHA remains the government agency charged with safety and health oversight responsibilities in the meat and poultry industries. e.g., encouraging and assisting employers and employees to reduce workplace hazards; researching occupational safety and health problems; and developing and enforcing standards to assure, as far as possible, a safe and healthful workplace for all employees.


FSIS's primary responsibilities continue to be to administer a comprehensive system of inspection laws to ensure that meat and poultry products moving in interstate and foreign commerce for use as human food are safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled.

FSIS inspection personnel, pursuant to executive Order No. 12196, have a right to report unsafe and unhealthful working conditions within their own workplaces and to which they are exposed. Such reports are to be handled as complaints in accordance with Federal Agency Program procedures currently in effect. This MOU in no way alters the normal procedure used by FSIS inspectors to report a workplace safety and health hazard that affects them to their supervisor or to the FSIS Deputy Administrator, Administrative Management.

C. Employers

Employers in the meat and poultry industries continue to have responsibilities as specified in the OSH Act, e.g., the responsibility to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards; the responsibility to examine workplace conditions to ensure they conform to applicable standards; and the responsibility to inform all employees about OSHA.


Employees in the meat and poultry industries continue to have responsibilities and rights as outlined in the OSH Act.



The OSH Act requires employers to furnish a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm and to comply with occupational safety and health standards. In order to determine employer compliance with safety and health standards and regulations, Federal and Plan State (reference Section VI) compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) conduct investigations and inspections of work-sites.

FSIS meat and poultry inspectors also conduct inspections of employer work-sites, but the purpose of these inspections is to protect consumers by ensuring that meat and poultry products for use as human food are safe, wholesome and accurately labeled. In the course of these inspections, however, FSIS meat and poultry inspectors are also in a position to observe safety concerns or be presented with information concerning conditions about the safety or health of plant employees.

FSIS currently trains its meat and poultry inspectors in occupational safety and health matters, but this training is limited. Under the terms of this MOU, OSHA will support and coordinate with FSIS to train FSIS inspections personnel i recognizing and reporting serious workplace hazards, thereby reinforcing and supplementing their previous training.

B. Standards Development

Coordinated Standards Development outlined in Section VI.B of this MOU covers the substance of the OSHA/FSIS May 1982 MOU. The may 1982 MOU will be superseded by the signing of this agreement.



1. Objective

The primary objective of the training conducted under the terms of the MOU is to heighten the awareness of meat and poultry inspectors in the recognition of serious workplace hazards. After receiving instruction, FSIS will be better able to:

(a) recognize and report unsafe or unhealthful working conditions within their own workplace and to which they are exposed, in furtherance of Executive Order No. 12196; and

(b) recognize and refer to FSIS headquarters those instances where plant employees are exposed to serious workplace hazards.

2. Development

OSHA and FSIS will cooperate in developing and conducting the training program designed in support of the MOU. OSHA representatives will participate with an FSIS joint team comprised of representatives from the FSIS Human Resource Development Division (HRDD), the International Programs import inspection staff, the Inspection Operations (IO) Safety and Health Steering Committee, and the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals. The team, with OSHA participation, will address such issues as necessary including:

-- evaluating current safety modules in FSIS courses and recommending changes;

-- determining the target population for field training;

-- developing training topics pertinent to FSIS workplace conditions. The training will focus on (1) OSHA's or Plan State's statutory authority and enforcement program as it applies to the meat and poultry industry: (2) serious workplace hazards frequently cited by OSHA in meat and poultry facilities, e.g. machine guarding and personal protective equipment (PPE); (3) OSHA workplace fire safety standards which require employers to provide proper exits, fire fighting equipment, emergency plans and employee training to prevent fire deaths and injuries in the workplace; (4) procedures for notifying FSIS management officials of serious workplace hazards to which plant employees are exposed.

-- developing instructional objectives for each topic:

-- determining approximate training time for each topic:

-- obtaining slides, photographs and other visuals illustrating occupational safety hazards present in meat and poultry plants;

-- designing evaluation instruments for the core training sessions and for the training to be delivered by those receiving the core training.

OSHA will then develop training which meets the instructional objectives of all training topics and which is fully compatible with the training delivery implementation plans devised by the FSIS joint team and OSHA participants.

3. Training Delivery and Evaluation

OSHA will provide an initial training session to all members of the FSIS joint team, as designated in paragraph VI.A.2, and additional FSIS personnel as deemed necessary. The training material used at the initial training session will be evaluated by attendees, and will be adjusted, as appropriate, based on these evaluations. These FSIS personnel will conduct subsequent training with involvement of OSHA to the general target group of FSIS inspectors.

OSHA will provide all training materials for the initial session and one additional master copy to HRDD for subsequent field training. OSHA will provide two additional master copies to HRDD when all agreed upon revisions are completed. OSHA training personnel will be on-site for the first training session with FSIS field personnel. Evaluations provided by group of FSIS personnel and OSHA participants will be used to determine if additional revisions are necessary before nationwide delivery.

When field training has been completed, OSHA and FSIS will analyze field personnel supplied evaluations to assure that the primary objective of the MOU is achieved.

B. Coordinated Standards Development

In administering their respective responsibilities, OSHA and FSIS will, to the extent possible, consult and exchange information with each other through the coordinating offices named in section VIII of the MOU. Specifically, the offices will:

1. Coordinate standards development programs in order to minimize possible inconsistencies between standards, establish standard setting priorities, and identify other issues where coordination is desirable.

2. Exchange information and reports on general enforcement matters and on particular situations of common concern to each agency.

3. Make every effort to achieve uniformity of approach in long-range standard development planning.

4. Obtain legal and policy positions on statutory authority regarding the extent to which the other agency can remedy a particular condition or item that may be within the regulatory authority of that agency.

C. Referrals

In the course of an FSIS inspection. FSIS meat and poultry inspectors might either recognize a serious workplace hazard or may receive complaints about unsafe or unhealthful working conditions of plant employees.

Though FSIS inspectors are not to perform the role of OSHA inspectors, they will be trained to recognize serious workplace hazards. FSIS inspectors will report those serious workplace hazards affecting plant employees to their agency headquarters. Agency headquarters officials will simultaneously refer these hazards to OSHA and notify plant management to the referral. The report of a hazard shall be in writing, using OSHA designated forms and consistent with guidance set forth in this MOU and implementing agency directives. OSHA will handle such reports as formal complaints and schedule an inspection according to existing procedures for such complaints. OSHA will receive all referrals and notify Plan States when appropriate. FSIS will afford the same confidentiality to the plant employees making a complaint as that afforded by OSHA.



OSHA will encourage States which operate their own occupational safety and health programs under a plan approved by OSHA as provided for in Section 18 of the OSH Act (Plan States) to participate in activities outlined in this MOU as appropriate.


FSIS will propose to States administering State meat and poultry inspection programs that they implement policies and procedures consistent with those outlines in the MOU.


OSHA and FSIS will work together to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the agreements reached and actions taken under the terms of the MOU. Specifically, OSHA and Plan States will record information regarding referrals made to OSHA by FSIS and State inspection programs. Information will include, but will not be limited to: 1) the number of referrals; 2) the number of inspections made in response to FSIS referrals; and 3) the number and types of hazards cited on the inspections.

Evaluation data will be reviewed by both OSHA and FSIS annually. Based on the evaluation of related data and feedback from OSHA, FSIS inspectors and meat and poultry employers and employees, adjustments to the MOU will be made, as appropriate.


A. training Issues

Training issues regarding this agreement will be coordinated between OSHA's Director, Office of Training and Education and FSIS's Director, HRDD.

B. Operational Issues

Issues regarding safety-related and health-related referrals by USDA inspectors will be coordinated between OSHA's Office of Field Programs and FSIS's Deputy Administrator, Administrative Management.

C. Interagency Policy and Standards Development Issues

Resolution of interagency policy issues concerning this agreement, including efforts to coordinate standards development, will be coordinated between OSHA's Director of Policy and FSIS's Director of Policy Evaluation and Planning Staff.


The OSHA/FSIS MOU signed on May 24, 1982, is superseded by this MOU.

This MOU will become effective on the date of the last signature and shall continue in effect unless: 1) the agreement is modified in writing by mutual consent of both parties; 2) the annual evaluation required in Section VIII is not performed; or 3) the agreement is terminated by either party upon thirty (30) days advance written notice to the other

Each inspector's responsibility to make referrals will not take effect until that inspector has completed the training provided for in this MOU.

FSIS and OSHA agree to initiate training as soon as practicable.

This MOU in no way restricts FSIS from participating in similar activities or arrangements with other public or private agencies, organizations, or individuals.

Specific work projects or activities involving the transfer of money, services, or property between the agencies to this MOU shall require execution of separate agreements or contracts. Each subsequent agreement between the parties to this MOU shall comply with all applicable statutes and regulations, including those statutes and regulations applicable to procurement activities, and must be independently authorized by appropriate statutory authority.

Nothing in this MOU shall obligate FSIS or OSHA to expend appropriations or to enter into contract or other obligation.



As stated under Section I of the MOU, FSIS inspectors will not be trained to and therefore, will not be expected to identify or evaluate or refer serious workplace hazards that tend to arise only after protracted, cumulative exposure, such as those related to repetitive motion and noise. A serious workplace hazard is a condition such that there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result. Examples of these hazards include, but are no limited to:

No emergency evacuation plans.

Blocked means of egress or exits.

Unmarked exits.

Lack of machine guards.

No control of hazardous energy during plant maintenance of equipment.

Electrical hazards.

Broken or missing guardrails.

Falling object hazards.

Walking/working surfaces. e.g. drain covers.

Lack of personal protective equipment.

Release or spill of a toxic chemical.

Plant workers reporting or exhibiting irritation of the eyes, nose and throat due to exposure to an unknown substance.

Plant workers exposed to hazardous chemicals not included in the plant's hazard communication program.

Plant workers reporting exposure to asbestos.

Plant workers entering confined space without the protection of a confined space entry program.

Plant workers exposed to carbon monoxide during warehousing operations.

Plant workers exposed to operations involving a dust hazard.