Create A Safer Workplace

Created in 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a division of the Department of Labor, was designed to maintain safe, healthy working conditions and ensure on-the-job safety for employees.

If an inspection goes poorly or an accident causes worker deaths and injuries, businesses can be fined anywhere from a couple thousand dollars to much more. When a British Petroleum (BP) facility exploded, killing 15 employees and injuring 170 more, it was fined $50.6 million. Avoid a similar fate by following these recommendations.

Getting Started

Not all OSHA regulations apply to every industry. Whereas the maritime regulations for shipyard employment don’t apply to growers, there are general regulations, such as record-keeping standards, that apply to everyone. The first step to maintaining a safe work environment involves knowing what regulations apply to your industry.

Pat McCon, a senior risk engineering consultant for Zurich Services Corporation, has had plenty of experience with OSHA inspections through a past manufacturing position as a safety professional at a large steel plant and as a part-time college instructor teaching OSHA standards classes.

“As far as complying with the law, you need to know the law,” says McCon, who recommends looking for guidance on the OSHA website, taking an OSHA 10- or 30-hour class or asking trade organizations for information.

When it comes to keeping a greenhouse or nursery operation out of trouble, McCon lists a few regulations that commonly trip up businesses. Most fines stem from “fall protection (ladders, elevated walkways, guardrails); electrical safety; chemical hazard communication; and recordkeeping violations,” McCon says.

Though a typical fine will set growers back a few thousand dollars, some state-ceded OSHA programs enact more devastating penalties. In the greenhouse and nursery industry, the largest fine in recent history was $25,125 to a California operation for lockout and recordkeeping violations, McCon says.

When OSHA Arrives

OSHA can stop by for a number of reasons. Although a worker complaint is the primary reason for an inspection, complaints from customers or passersby, a recent accident with three or more fatalities or an on-a-whim visit from an inspector in the area constitute other reasons for inspections.
McCon describes the inspection process like this:

1 An OSHA inspector arrives asking to see the place. The inspector indicates why he or she showed up but, in the case of a complaint, cannot legally identify who made the complaint. The grower has the right to deny entry to the compliance officer without a warrant. The compliance officer will likely approach a judge in an attempt to obtain the warrant and if successful, will be back, possibly with a different attitude. Generally, there’s not much value in delaying the inspection by requiring a warrant, McCon cautions.

2 An opening conference begins after the management has been given a reasonable amount of time to gather everyone who needs to attend. A representative for the workers must be available at the conference and to accompany the inspector and management on the inspection. In the conference, the inspector discusses the scope of the inspection and any necessary documents are reviewed.

3 The inspection may involve seeing the area mentioned in the complaint only or the entire operation. When accompanying the inspector, bring a maintenance person along to make small repairs as you go. A small repair might cost $1,000, but if the inspector indicates the problem was fixed during the inspection, the fine could be omitted or reduced.

4 Closing conferences give the inspector and management an opportunity to go over what violations will be suggested to the area director, who is in charge of enforcing the fines and has the discretion to reduce them. The inspector will also leave a paper indicating the grower’s rights, which includes a period of time to respond to the violations.


Overall, keep in mind that OSHA strives to accomplish a safe environment for your staff.

“The value of a safety and health program isn’t in avoiding OSHA fines,” McCon says. “That’s a nice side benefit, but the real values are twofold; reducing the costs of workplace injuries (and workers compensation), and the moral/ethical obligation of making sure employees go home at night in the same condition that they came to work in – maybe a bit more tired and dirty, but with all their components in place.”

Leave a Reply

More From Structures & Equipment...
Lavandula 'Meerlo' (Sunset Western Garden Collection)

March 3, 2015

Why You Will Still Grow Today’s Big Perennial 10 Years From Now

What will be the next big perennial? Breeders say it takes more than a splashy plant to distinguish itself in the market. Therefore, the question is not what will be the next big perennial, but rather what perennial performs well enough in the garden to have staying power in the market for years to come.

Read More

March 2, 2015

Avoid Surprises On The Delivery Dock

A call in advance about problems with a plant shipment to a retailer you supply goes a long way toward customer satisfaction.

Read More
Janeen Wright

March 2, 2015

Deliver Plant Quality That Trumps Price [Opinion]

The industry's goal is to have loyal customers who return to the same plants time and time again, not because of price, but owing to a plant brand that shouts top-notch garden performance and is synonymous with excellence, which gives them the secure knowledge that their investment will be worth every hard-earned cent.

Read More
Latest Stories
Outfitting Your Greenhouse

February 24, 2015

Save Energy With The Right Greenhouse Glazing

The glazing you choose can make a big difference in your energy bill and the uniformity of your crops.

Read More
Rough Brothers aeroponic greenhouse project

February 24, 2015

Rough Brothers Takes A Hands-On Approach To Several Pro…

Two projects Rough Brothers worked on for Altman plants in Giddings, Texas, and Scissortail Farms in Tulsa County, Okla., show that pre-planning on the grower's part opens the way for a smooth-running expansion project.

Read More
Michigan State University Extension

February 24, 2015

Ethylene From Defective Greenhouse Heaters Damages Crop…

Malfunctioning greenhouse heaters can lead to crop damage from ethylene and carbon monoxide induced illness for workers. Michigan State University's Extension educators Tom Dudek and Randy Beaudry teach you how to recognize the symptoms and check greenhouse heaters to avoid the concern.

Read More
Stuppy Greenhouse Manufacturing's Rainbow Super Structure

February 23, 2015

Stuppy Greenhouse Manufacturing Says Every Customer’s G…

Well-suited greenhouses that function efficiently for customers arise from involving them in the design process from start to finish. Stuppy Greenhouse Manufacturing put this philosophy on a greenhouse design for a wholesale grower looking to expand his annuals operation. The grower's needs were simple, yet daunting: design a greenhouse that delivers the perfect growing environment, but keep maintenance and operating costs low.

Read More
Havest Automation Robot

February 18, 2015

Robots Grab Hold Of Growers’ Material Handling Needs

Harvest Automation’s HV-100 robots automate one of the hardest, most labor-intensive jobs at growing operations – plant spacing. With more technology coming, investing in robots could become even more realistic for growers of all sizes.

Read More

February 1, 2015

4 Lighting Products For Your Operation

These new lighting products have been developed for maximum energy efficiency in greenhouse production. Check out the slideshow to see which products are right for your operation.

Read More

January 30, 2015

LumiGrow Expands Customer Base In 2014

LumiGrow, Inc. is adding more than 125 new commercial, governmental and research customers to its roster of customers, and beyond the new accounts added this year, many existing customers significantly increased the number of LumiGrow products they use and research customers made LumiGrow a part of their efforts to add to the body of knowledge about spectral science.

Read More
National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association

January 27, 2015

Stricter Energy Codes May Impact Your Ability To Expand

Are you aware stricter energy codes may be on the horizon that will certainly impact your business in a big way? Here's a Q & A from the National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association that helps explain the dangers of the coming energy codes and what we as an industry can do to prevent them.

Read More

January 27, 2015

10 Questions To Ask Before Purchasing A Greenhouse Cove…

Whether you’re replacing an existing greenhouse covering or building a new greenhouse, it’s a significant investment, so you need to make sure you have the right type of covering to suit your needs and budget. What’s more, with production costs on the rise, you can’t afford to have anything less than a durable, high-quality covering that is energy efficient. To make a smart purchase, do your homework before you buy. A good place to start is by answering the following questions, which will help you separate the good products from the mediocre ones.

Read More

January 26, 2015

Warehouse Growing Works With The Right Variables

The debate about whether warehouse growing or greenhouse growing is more efficient and profitable is largely based on grower preference, types of plants grown and available technologies, according to various industry players. Traditionally, greenhouse growing has been the norm. However, warehouse growing is becoming increasingly favorable with certain growers.

Read More

January 26, 2015

Greenhouse Growers Look To Build And Retrofit In 2015

You’re likely to see more construction work going on in the greenhouse industry in 2015, according to Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 State of the Industry survey. Responses show growers have high hopes for the future, which may be one reason why more of them are looking to spruce up their facilities.

Read More
harvest automation featured image

January 13, 2015

Harvest Automation Extends Robot Rental Program

Harvest Automation's robot rental program proved to be such a success for the company that it is being extended through the spring. The program was unveiled last year as a way for customers to get started with HV-100 robots.

Read More

January 9, 2015

Innovations In Irrigation

Need help improving your irrigation? Check out these new products.

Read More

December 31, 2014

Precision Irrigation: How And Why?

New developments and research in precision irrigation address water use issues and help growers make more informed fertilizer decisions.

Read More

December 2, 2014

Hanna Instruments, Inc. Introduces pH Electrode With Bl…

Hanna Instruments recently released HALO, a professional pH probe with Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth 4.0) technology that transmits measurement data directly to an Apple iPad running the Hanna Lab App.

Read More

November 24, 2014

Biomass Six Years Later: Would Pleasant View Do It Agai…

Pleasant View gardens installed its first biomass boiler six years ago and has added a second one since. Now it’s reaping the benefits of lower heating costs and dollars saved.

Read More

November 18, 2014

7 New Media And Light Products For Greenhouse Productio…

New media and light products cover a broad sweep of growing conditions.

Read More
Griffin Logo

November 14, 2014

Griffin Greenhouse Supplies Announces Keelan Pulliam…

Keelan Pulliam retires from Griffin Greenhouse Supplies after more than 20 years of service to the lawn and garden industry.

Read More