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 http://www.osha.gov.

 


January 24, 1990

The Honorable Steve Symms
United States Senator
401 2nd Street North #106
Twin Falls, Idaho 83301

Dear Senator Symms:

This is in further response to your letter of August 25, 1989, addressed to the Director of Intra-Governmental Affairs, Ms. Ruth Knight, in which you requested a full report regarding the issuance of citations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to A. Gustaf Bryngelson of Rupert, Idaho. Please excuse our delay in responding to this request.

The inspection of Mr. Bryngelson's farm was conducted on May 31, 1989, under OSHA's National Emphasis Program to ensure employer compliance with 29 CFR 1928.110, Field Sanitation. This rule requires sanitation provisions necessary to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for farm workers.

The scope of the inspection was limited to the issue of field sanitation. During the inspection, several violations of this standard were observed, including inadequate toilet facilities, failure to provide separate drinking water cups, failure to inform the workers of hazards to which they are exposed in the field, and the use of the hygiene facilities to prevent these problems. The citation was issued on June 30, 1989, with no proposed penalty, and the case was subsequently closed when a letter documenting abatement was received from the employer.

Mr. Bryngelson's primary concern is the requirements of the standard 29 CFR 1928.110(c)(4), which states in part:

 

The employer ... shall inform each employee of the importance of each of the following good hygiene practices to minimize exposure to the hazards in the field of heat, communicable diseases, retention of urine and agrichemical residues:
(i) Use the water and facilities provided for drinking, handwashing and elimination;
(ii) Drink water frequently and especially on hot days;
(iii) Urinate as frequently as necessary;
(iv) Wash hands both before and after using the toilet; and
(v) Wash hands before eating and smoking.

This requirement and the rest of the standard were developed to reduce the incidence rate of disease in farmworker populations related to their work. Studies have found that farmworkers face greatly increased risks of suffering the following types of conditions which can be prevented by good sanitation practices:

(1) Heat stroke or other related illnesses from failing to consume adequate quantities of water;
(2) Parasitic infections and other communicable diseases from poor hygiene practices;
(3) Various diseases caused by agrichemicals used in crops when workers are unable to wash chemicals off; and
(4) Urinary tract infections caused by urine retention.

During the hearings held prior to the promulgation of the standard, numerous health professionals and farm labor representatives testified that training is an essential part of a sanitation program because many workers do not understand risks they face as farmworkers. As a result, this provision was added to the standard.

The training envisioned under the standard is not elaborate but may be accomplished through the use of posters, pamphlets, or perhaps a brief discussion with workers. The employer is allowed great flexibility to use the approach that will be most effective for his employees.

Additionally, in regard to Mr. Bryngelson's request for information on the correct screen mesh size for his toilet facilities, the Boise Area Office did not initially respond because work was no longer being conducted at the site. However, the Area Office will contact the employer at his business address and provide the requested information.

I hope this reply has been fully responsive to Mr. Bryngelson's concerns. if you have any further questions, please feel free to contact our Boise Area Office:

[Boise Area Office
1150 North Curtis Road, Suite 201
Boise, Idaho 83706
(208) 321-2960
(208) 321-2966 Fax]

 

 

Sincerely,



Gerard F. Scannell
Assistant Secretary

[Corrected 3/23/2009]