By: Rich Galutia, OSP

As most know, hemp processors are subject to many government regulations, including regulations regarding health and safety. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration develops and enforces workplace safety regulations that apply to industrial hemp processors with U.S. operations. This article focuses on the scope of OSHA standards as they apply to hemp processors, as well as some of the significant OSHA standards that hemp operators need to know.

OSHA- Am I Subject to the Standard?

A business is covered by OSHA standards unless it is operated by a self-employed individual, has only immediate family members as employees of a farm employer, or involves work hazards regulated by another federal agency (for example, the Mine Safety and Health Administration or the Department of Energy).[1]

Is My Business Regulated by Federal OSHA or a State-OSHA Program?

Most private-employers are covered by federal OSHA standards. When a state has an approved State OSHA Plan, its regulations must be at least equivalent to federal OSHA standards. Most states simply adopt the federal standards.[2]

The following 22 states or territories have OSHA-approved State Plans that cover both private and state workers, as well as local government workers:

  • Alaska

  • Arizona

  • California

  • Hawaii

  • Indiana

  • Iowa

  • Kentucky

  • Maryland

  • Michigan

  • Minnesota

  • Nevada

  • New Mexico

  • North Carolina

  • Oregon

  • Puerto Rico

  • South Carolina

  • Tennessee

  • Utah

  • Vermont

  • Virginia

  • Washington

  • Wyoming

What are My Responsibilities?

Employers subject to OSHA standards are required to comply with all applicable OSHA standards and the OSHA General Duty Clause. OSHA has several sets of standards targeting specific categories of business, including agriculture, maritime, and construction. The OSHA General Industry Standard Code of Federal Regulations[3] is the primary set of standards applicable to hemp processors. On-farm activities are governed by 29 CFR 1928, under agriculture standards. Additionally, OSHA Standards for Record-keeping[4] and regulations for Whistleblower Protection apply to most hemp processors.

When a standard does not exist to address a specific hazard, OSHA may cite a company under the General Duty Clause. This clause is found in the OSHA Act and is as follows: each employer “shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”[5]

What are my OSHA Record-Keeping and Injury Reporting Requirements?

OSHA requires employers with greater than 10 employees, and those in most industries, including hemp processors, to maintain an OSHA Injury and Illness log.[6] This log is known as the OSHA 300 Log. OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1904 outlines the requirements for keeping the log in a question and answer format. The basic requirement is that all work-related injuries, other than those defined as first-aid, must be recorded on the OSHA log. OSHA Standard 1904.4[7] outlines the basic requirements to determine recordability. Employers are required to log an illness or injury within seven days of being made aware of the injury or illness.[8]

Employers subject to the record-keeping requirements must also complete an annual summary form known as the 300 A form. This form must be posted in workplaces between February 1st and April 30th of each year. OSHA also requires certain employers to submit information from the 300 A form to the agency via an electronic submission no later than March 2nd each year. Hemp processors with 20 or more employees are subject to this rule.

Certain injuries must also be reported to OSHA. Any work-related fatality must be reported to OSHA within 8 hours of discovery. All work-related injuries involving inpatient hospitalizations, amputations or loss of an eye incidents must be reported to OSHA within 24 hours of discovery. These injuries must be reported to the local OSHA office or the agency’s toll free reporting system at 800-321-6742.

How Does OSHA Enforce Its Standards?

OSHA has a comprehensive inspection program and has the authority to issue citations and penalties. OSHA inspections fall under the following categories:

1. Imminent danger situations—hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm receive top priority. Compliance officers will ask employers to correct these hazards immediately or remove endangered employees.

2. Severe injuries and illnesses—employers must report:

• All work-related fatalities within 8 hours.

• All work-related inpatient hospitalizations, amputations, or losses of an eye within 24 hours.

3. Worker complaints—allegations of hazards or violations also receive a high priority. Employees may request anonymity when they file complaints.

4. Referrals of hazards—from other federal, state or local agencies, individuals, organizations or the media receive consideration for inspection.

5. Targeted inspections—inspections aimed at specific high-hazard industries or individual workplaces that have experienced high rates of injuries and illnesses also receive priority.

6. Follow-up inspections—checks for abatement of violations cited during previous inspections are also conducted by the agency in certain circumstances.[9]

This list also corresponds with the priority for inspections. Investigations of severe injuries and illnesses and worker complaints are often resolved without the need for an onsite visit. Employers are asked to conduct an investigation of the accident that led to the injury or to respond to the allegations in the worker complaint. If OSHA is satisfied with the response, it will close the case.

OSHA will respond to neighbor complaints of safety violations under the fourth category, “Referrals”.

When OSHA determines that a violation has occurred, it can issue a citation that notes the standard that was violated, when and where it occurred, and how many employees were exposed to the hazard. It will also categorize the citation into one of four categories: Willful, Repeat, Serious, and Other-than-serious. Most citations fall into the Serious category.

The maximum penalty amounts are:

$13,494 per violation for Record-keeping, Other-than-serious and Serious citations.

$13,494 per day beyond the abatement date for failure to abate citations.

$134, 940 per violation for Willful or Repeat citations

These maximum penalties are reduced by OSHA with consideration to the size of the business and previous history with OSHA.

What are some of the key OSHA Standards that a Hemp Processor Needs to Know?

Since the hemp industry is relatively new, there have not been a substantial number of inspections at hemp processors. OSHA releases an annual list of the top ten standards with citations. The General Industry Standards that appeared on the most recent list[10] include:

OSHA 1910.1200 – Hazard Communications

Hazard Communications is also known as OSHA’s chemical “right to know” program. This globally harmonized standard includes requirements for a written program, chemical product labeling, detailed safety information found on Safety Data Sheets, and employee training.

OSHA 1910.147 – Lockout/Tagout

Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) is one of the primary ways to prevent an amputation in the workplace. This protective measure is implemented during the servicing of machinery and equipment. Servicing includes maintenance, repair and cleaning. Lockout/tagout prevents the unexpected energization of equipment. OSHA requires employers to have a written plan, procedures, equipment to accomplish LOTO, employee training and periodic reviews of authorized employees performing LOTO and the written procedures.

OSHA 1910.134 – Respiratory Protection

Respiratory Protection programs are required when the use of a respirator is mandatory in a workplace. The need for respiratory protection is determined by air sampling. The Safety Data Sheet for a chemical will also have information regarding respirator use and the types of respirators that can be used. OSHA requires companies that mandate respirator use to have a written program, an administrator of the program, medical evaluations of users, annual fit testing, and training. Engineering solutions such as fixed and portable air ventilation should be considered first before instituting a respiratory protection program.

OSHA 1910.178 – Powered Industrial Trucks

Powered Industrial trucks include: forklifts, reach lifts, and electric pallet jacks. OSHA has a detailed training requirement for operators of this equipment. Similar to an auto driving training program, powered industrial truck operators must receive some form of classroom training, followed by hands on training which leads to a final evaluation by a designated trainer. The trainer may be an experienced operator or supervisor who understands the training requirements. The evaluation must be documented in order to certify that the operator is permitted to operate powered industrial trucks at the company.

One thing to keep in mind is to make sure the employee is trained on specific tasks to be performed. An operator who worked in a warehouse may have learned important skills, but may not have a clue how to properly handle bales.

OSHA 1910.212 – Machine Guarding

Machine guarding standards are designed to make sure moving parts of equipment are equipped with guards to prevent accidental contact. Equipment will often have fixed guards, barriers, interlocked or light curtains. Do not assume that new equipment will have proper guards in place. It is important to look at your purchasing contract to make sure that the equipment meets OSHA guarding requirements.

There are often similar hazards found in hemp and cannabis processing. Michigan OSHA identifies the following additional hazards in its MIOSHA Fact Sheet[11]:

· Noise

· Flammability Liquids (e.g., ethanol)

· Slips, trips, and falls

· Personal Protective Equipment

· Air Contaminants (Carbon Dioxide use)

There are OSHA Standards that address all of the above hazards.


Industrial Hemp Processors are subject to many OSHA requirements. Compliance with OSHA standards is considered minimal compliance, and there are many more elements to having an effective workplace safety and health program. OSHA compliance is a great start that will help firms 1) avoid OSHA citations and penalties; 2) control workers compensation costs; and 3) meet their moral responsibility to make sure workers are safe on the job.

About the Author

Rich Galutia is a Certified Safety Professional with nearly 30 years of experience working with agribusiness companies. He founded OSH Solutions LLC in 2013 after a successful career with another safety consulting company. OSH Solutions LLC helps businesses create and maintain workplaces that are safe for employees and inspection-ready. The company also helps animal feed mills and related companies with FDA Food Safety Modernization Act compliance and third party certifications.

Rich is the current Second Vice-President of Penn Ag Industries Association. His association membership includes the Hemp Industry Association, American Feed Industry Association and the National Grain and Feed Association. He served two terms as the Chair of the AFIA’s Safety and Health Committee.

The website for the company is You can also reach Rich through Twitter @OSHSolutionsLLC and on Linkedin.

[1] All About OSHA, Publication #3302-08R-2018, available at: [2] For more information, please see: [3] 29 CFR 1910 [4] 29 CFR 1904 [5] 29 U.S.C. § 654 [6] 29 CFR 1904(a) [7] 29 CFR 1904.4 [8] 29 CFR 1904.29(b)(3) [9] See [10] ( [11]