Safety Standards

Agricultural machines sold and used in the U.S. and Canadian markets are designed in accordance with ASAE standards, which are voluntary consensus documents. These standards do not carry the force of law, but they are followed by machinery manufacturers. Not following such standards is generally looked upon negatively in any product-related litigation. There are numerous ASAE standards relating to the safety of machines. While new standards and revisions of older standards have improved safety of machines designed and manufactured in accordance with such standards, older machines in use may not meet such standards, and there is no requirement to modify or retrofit older machines to newer standards (7).

Two OSHA agricultural standards apply specifically to mobile agricultural machines:

1. 1928.51, "Rollover Protective Structures (ROPS) for Tractors Used in Agricultural Operations"

2. 1928.57, "Guarding of Farm Field Equipment, Farmstead Equipment, and Cotton Gins"

In addition, two OSHA general industry standards also have application to agricultural machines:

1. 1910.145(d)(10), "Slow-Moving Vehicles"

2. 910.111(a)and(b), "Storage and Handling of Anhydrous Ammonia"

It is incumbent on the employer, not the manufacturer, to ensure that machines used by employees meet OSHA standards. Machines designed and manufactured to ASAE standards are generally considered to meet OSHA standards. At present, federal OSHA standards are enforceable only on farms with 11 or more employees, so most farms are exempt. States that have their own OSHA or equivalent can apply their regulations differently (8,9).

Other countries have their own standards, often in the form of government regulations, although they may be lacking in developing nations. Some countries strictly regulate farm machines themselves, either requiring government approval of new designs or establishing requirements for all machines, new or old, whereas the United States relies on a voluntary system. The International Standards Organization (ISO) develops voluntary standards involving representatives from many countries, including the United States, but typically national regulations (which may or may not be based on ISO standards) still take precedence. Harmonization of national regulations or standards, including ASAE standards, with international standards is an ongoing process.

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