The California Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board has granted Grimmway Farms a permanent variance for use of its tractor-mounted personnel platforms (TPP’s) to transport irrigation workers in the fields. However, the board denied the use of TPP’s on farm roads to transport workers to and from pipe yards and between fields.
Grimmway had been utilizing the TPP’s under a temporary experimental variance (TEV) granted by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), commonly referred to as Cal/OSHA, for the last two years. The TEV is a temporary variance that allows an employer to develop data to demonstrate or validate new and improved techniques to safeguard worker health or safety.
According to Cal/OSHA, the General Industry Safety Order §3441(a)(2)(B) prohibits riding on agricultural equipment, except for operators and workers required for training or assistance. The variance decision notes that although the safety order has a “clear, outright ban on the personnel platforms,” Grimmway made “an extensive and comprehensive showing of equivalent safety.”
According to Grimmway, an average crew installs about 880 lengths of 30 pound pipe per shift, the equivalent of about five miles of pipe. Workers walk alongside the trailer laying pipe, then ride about a quarter mile on the TPP to the irrigation main. Grimmway was able to demonstrate that transporting workers in this manner reduces exposure to heat illness and injury that can occur while walking on the soft terrain.
However, the board found that Grimmway did not make an equivalent showing of safety for use on private farm roads. The board did give Grimmway an opportunity to modify its variance request for use on private farm roads if the employer can submit further evidence showing equivalent level of protection. Grimmway may still operate the TEVs on farm roads pursuant to an existing TEV or apply for a new TEV before reapplying for a permanent variance for use on farm roads.
The permanent variance imposed various conditions including the establishment of a safety program, requiring daily inspections of the equipment; incident investigation and recordkeeping; and training. In addition, each TPP must be equipped with an emergency signal that passengers can use to alert the tractor driver of an issue.
Other usage rules relate to events when passengers must exit the TPP (e.g., prior to beginning a turn at the end of a row; loss of traction or stability, etc.) and areas where use is prohibited (e.g., within ten feet of a ditch, canal, pond, and other locations that present an overturn hazard.)
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