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March 27, 2013
Is it time for a change in OSHA’s farm exemption?

An investigation by NPR and the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) found that the huge growth in corn storage on farms and in commercial structures in the past several decades has been accompanied by more worker entrapment deaths. Commercial operations are regulated by OSHA, but many farms are not.

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The CPI and NPR point to a significant increase in on-farm grain storage, with more than 300,000 farms now having one or more storage structures on-site. The report quoted Jeff Adkisson, executive vice president of the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois.

“I think it’s time for industry, for government, for all of us to pause and have the conversation again about who is exempt and who is not exempt from some of the standards,” he said.

In response to information from the CPI and NPR, an expert on entrapment revised his numbers to reflect that 52 percent of entrapments were on farms and 48 percent were at commercial sites.

Changing the farm exemption would likely be a tough sell among farmers. A recent OSHA proposal to limit the work activities of children on farms beyond existing restrictions was strongly opposed by many farmers. The proposal was withdrawn last April.

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