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.

October 31, 1991

Mr. D. Michael Hancock
Executive Director
Farmworker Justice Fund, Inc.
Suite 210
2001 S Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009

Dear Mr. Hancock:

Thank you for your letter of August 29, in which you expressed concerns about the enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Field Sanitation Standard and the issuance of the proposed field sanitation compliance directive.

We believe that a better understanding by the public at large, by agricultural operators and by field laborers of the serious nature of the hazards addressed in the Standard will result in a greater level of compliance with the provisions of the Standard. The primary hazards addressed by the standard are heat stroke and heat exhaustion due to insufficient intake of potable water, urinary tract infections due to inadequate availability of toilets and consequential urine retention, agrichemical poisoning resulting from lack of handwashing facilities, and infectious and other communicable diseases from microbial and parasitic exposures.

A greater level of information sharing is necessary in the area of field sanitation, as well as all other aspects of agriculture. President Bush proclaimed September 15-21 of this year as National Farm Safety Week because agriculture is one of the most hazardous of U.S. industries, with an estimated 1,300 deaths and 120,000 disabling injuries in 1990. OSHA, working with organizations such as the National Safety Council (the sponsor of National Farm Safety Week), other federal agencies, the states, and farm organizations, is doing its utmost to call the attention of farmers, farm workers and their families to the hazards causing these deaths, injuries and illnesses and the means of abating those hazards.

This year, in support of National Farm Safety Week, OSHA has sent special news releases on the subject of agricultural safety and health in general to 3,800 newspapers which serve rural and suburban areas and to 485 print media outlets which serve black and Hispanic audiences. In addition, the agency has provided farm safety messages to 325 television stations and 3,600 radio stations serving black and Hispanic audiences.

In addition, OSHA Administrator, Assistant Secretary Gerard F. Scannell, has instructed all OSHA Regional Administrators to designate a technical staff person in each OSHA regional office to provide information and give presentations on safety and health in agriculture to interested parties upon request. Each of these regional contacts will have special training and an understanding of the hazards related to all aspects of agricultural operations, including hand-labor operations in the field.

OSHA also continues its program of performing field sanitation inspections. In calendar year 1990, OSHA performed more than 700 such inspections, and the number of serious violations cited and the levels of penalties have been increasing significantly during the past three years.

We at the Department are also considering new enforcement approaches for the Field Sanitation Standard. The outcome of these considerations, in conjunction with the related issuance of the proposed field sanitation compliance directive (which addresses many of the issues raised in your letter), is likely to result in more effective enforcement of the standard.

We appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns.


Lynn Martin