COVID Isn’t Over….Unfortunately

As vaccines have been rolling out and availability has expanded, many or most of our customers and employees have developed some immunity but we can’t drop the procedures just yet. We have OSHA to deal with and they’ve stepped it up a notch and probably have more to come.

President Biden promised a Emergency Temporary Standard by March 15th. Well that didn’t quite happen but OSHA has circulated a draft internally from well informed reports. In its place, they published a national emphasis program for targeted industries. Cotton gins and agriculture in general is not in the targeted group but don’t be surprised if you have to answer questions about Covid procedures and protocols if you have to have an interaction with OSHA for the foreseeable future.

While life for most of cotton country is getting back to a semblance of ‘normal’ we need to be aware that this will have a long tail I’m afraid. We should expect to have outbreaks and rules and regs lingering. We still have people working for us out there that have underlying conditions and have not had covid or been vaccinated. We need to do what we can to help protect them at least while they’re at work.

To get a hint of what will likely be in a “temporary standard” please go to Virginia is one of the first State Plan States to have a permanent standard for Covid. We’ve written about this previously and as we get a better picture on enforcement in Virginia, we’ll likely write about it again.

As we get into repair season, lets do our best to keep Covid out of the gin and keep our year-round employees safe.


OSHA ITA Portal Accepting Reports

Last week we reported that OSHA’s ITA portal, the place you put your OSHA 300A summary information, was having some issues. Not that they are all resolved but the page is still up and is accepting data. We have heard from a couple of gins that had not made the deadline due to the problem, that they were able to make reports either late last week or in the last day or so.

If you had not submitted your data and still need to do so, we wanted to remind you that you can still get the data in.


OSHA 300 Information due TOMORROW

All employers in many categories (including agriculture) must submit their OSHA 300A summary information to OSHA via their web portal. This year’s deadline is March 2 (tomorrow). Please take a few minutes to make sure you have done this. The website is . When you go to that page, look for the Injury Tracking Application to begin the process.

For the past several years, OSHA has been requiring that all employers in most industries, to submit their OSHA 300A summary information to the agency via the web. Most cotton gins are captured in this group of employers that are required to report their data. The only ones that may not have to are the gins that, at no point during the previous calendar year, in this case 2020, had 20 or more employees (peak employment). If you had 19 or fewer employees for the entire year, you will not have to submit your data.

One of the critical things you may want to double check is your DART rate. Please refer to this article that Andy wrote on how to calculate your DART rate. The reason this is critical is that in the past year a few of our members have received some letters from OSHA regarding their DART rate compared to “Industry Average”. Since the Industry Average has been derived on a very small number of sampled employers in the past it may be inaccurate. When the Obama Administration first proposed this electronic submission, the rule’s preamble specifically discussed that the data (DART Rate) may become public, allowing for current or potential employees to see the data in a way similar to how people can look up or view a restaurant’s Health Department Inspection information. The Trump administration stopped that but we are in a new era and there’s no telling what may happen going forward.

The page linked above has a lot of Frequently Asked questions on this process. . You can find most answers on this page or contact Andy Knowlton with Questions regarding the OSHA 300 or 300A summary. We can help with the forms but not the site unfortunately.

Give us a call if you have questions.

Correctly Calculating your DART Rate

In the previous article posted concerning OSHA 300A Form Posting, there was discussion on calculating average number of workers. This value is to be entered under the establishment information on the OSHA 300A Form. This calculation can give employers some confusion and incorrect numbers can cause problems for your DART rate.

The DART rate for your company comes into play when you transfer your 300A data over to the OSHA electronic database. DART stands for days away, restricted or transferred, and the number of workers and total hours worked affect this rate. If your DART rate is high, it could trigger OSHA to take a closer look at your facility. We have had several gins receive letters from OSHA concerning their higher-than-average DART rate but have not seen any additional actions from OSHA at this point. It is very important that OSHA receives correct data representing your facility.

Average number of employees is essentially the total number of workers paid during the year divided by the number of pay periods. Be sure to count every paycheck, including all salaried, full time, part time, seasonal, and temporary employee. This would even include the employee that only worked a few days and never returned but did receive a paycheck.

Let’s look at an example for calculating the average number of employees for the purpose of OSHA 300A and electronic reporting. It can be viewed as the number of employees or the number of paychecks written. If you paid 15 employees for 8 pay periods, 30 employees for 16 pay periods, and 8 employees for 28 pay periods, then your total number of employees would be (15×8) + (30×16) + (8×28) = 824 total employees. That number would then be divided by the total number of pay periods (52 for weekly, 26 for biweekly, etc.). If we assume weekly pay periods, the average number of employees for this example would be (824/52) = 15.8 rounded up to 16 average employees over the year. If this calculation is not correct it will have an effect on how OSHA calculates your dart rate.

The other part of this calculation to consider is the total number of hours worked and is just as important as the average number of employees. For hourly employees the total hours worked can just be pulled from your payroll system, but salaried employees there will have to be some estimations made if the data is not available. For salaried employees, take the time to make as accurate estimations as possible as this total number of hours worked plays a crucial role in OSHA correctly calculating DART rates for your facility. Additional examples and explanations can be found here OSHA Forms and Instructions

It may take a little more time and work to get accurate numbers for the average number of employees and the total hours worked, but it is important to get these numbers correct. If you do not, there is a risk of being labeled as a high risk workplace based on faulty numbers.

If there are any question concerning this topic or other OSHA related issues. Please give Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association a call.

OSHA Issues yet More Guidance on Combating Covid-19

In the days since Joe Biden took office on January 20 there have been a large number of executive orders. One of those executive orders directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to do more on Covid-19 including a new temporary standard. While OSHA hasn’t gone quite as far as a standard, they have issued guidance on combating Covid in the workplace, since the Executive Order was signed. This is actually the second guidance. The first, in 2020, referenced CDC guidance and deferred a lot to them.

The guidance from OSHA can be found on their webpage entitled : Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace. That page has all of the current guidance including encouraging employers to have a Covid Plan. The implication is that if you don’t have a plan and you have an outbreak, you very well could face a General Duty Clause Citation.

While most gins have made it through the season with few or very few issues with Covid, we encourage everyone to go to the site above and review the 16 Elements of a covid plan that OSHA is recommending. Additionally many states are allowing agricultural workers to be in the current group eligible for vaccination. You and your employees may be eligible but distribution is VERY localized and you need to contact your local health department if you don’t know.


OSHA 300A Form Posting Deadline Today

By Andy Knowlton

This is a reminder for all employers to be sure and post a copy of their injury and illness summary for the 2020 calendar year.  If you do not already have a copy of this form it can be accessed through this link OSHA Recordkeeping Forms and Instructions.  Employers must fill out a copy of each of the OSHA forms 300, 300A and 301 to be in compliance with the requirements of the Recordkeeping rule.  The 300A Summary of Injuries and Illnesses is the only form that must be posted from Feb. 1 to April 30 of each year.  The 300A must be posted in a common area where notices to employees would normally be posted. Be sure to post this form beginning February 1, 2021.

It is very important that the OSHA 300A Summary be filled out completely and correctly.  In the case that there were no work-related accidents to report, the form must be filled out with zeros in each blank.  Often the establishment information is also overlooked and or just not signed.  One area of the establishment information that creates some confusion is the area asking about average number of employees and total hours worked.  The average number of employees is simply the total number of paychecks written divided by the number of pay periods.  This should include all full-time, part-time, temporary, seasonal, salaried, and hourly employees.  There will be a follow up article to cover this calculation and why it is important. 

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