OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

April 14, 1983

Honorable Larry J. Hopkins
House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman Hopkins:

This is in response to your letter of March 22, 1983, concerning shields on the moving parts of farm machinery.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) agrees that farm machinery can be quite hazardous. In 1976, OSHA promulgated a rule (copy enclosed) requiring the guarding of mechanical hazards on farm field equipment, farmstead equipment and cotton gins. The rule required the guarding of all power take-off shafts, regardless of date of manufacture, and all other hazardous components on machinery manufactured after October 25, 1976.

OSHA does not agree that the interlock type of control, which your constituent advocated, is necessarily advantageous. If an employer deliberately decided to violate an OSHA regulation by operating a piece of farm machinery without an appropriate guard, he could as easily violate any interlock system by bypassing or otherwise disabling the system. Additionally, the addition of such devices to farm equipment, especially existing equipment, might be technologically and/or economically infeasible.

Your constituent may also be interested to know that OSHA regulations do not apply on farms where only family members work, since family members are not considered to be employees, even if they are paid. Additionally, OSHA is currently under a restriction, contained in our annual Appropriations Act, which limits OSHA jurisdiction to farms employing 11 or more employees.

Your interest in occupational safety and health is very much appreciated. Please let me know if I can provide any further assistance or information in this matter.


Thorne G. Auchter
Assistant Secretary