USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has announced that with COVID numbers continuing to fall, the ARS ginning laboratories in Las Cruces, NM, and Stoneville, MS, can host the remaining 2022 ginner schools. Ginners, gin managers and superintendents are urged to register for the Western Ginners School on May 4-5 and the Stoneville Ginners School on June 8-9.
The 35th annual schools will be two days instead of three, and there will be no on-site registration. Credit cards can be used for online registration at www.cotton.org/ncga/ginschool/index.cfm where course descriptions and more information are available.
The schools will continue to offer the course levels I, II and III and continuing education courses. Levels I, II and III programming will feature practical information on all aspects of ginning. Topics to be covered range from gin safety and maintenance to drying/moisture restoration systems and seed cotton/cottonseed handling systems.
The continuing education courses will include topics such as the use and practical application of variable frequency drives, gin upgrades and increasing capacities, air pollution controls, labor issues and H2-A, press rebuilds to increase press capacities, and stabilizing catastrophic injuries.
The three schools’ programming is coordinated by the NCGA, working in conjunction with USDA’s Greg Holt and the three USDA ginning laboratories. School cooperators include USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, NCGA and its member associations, the NCC, Cotton Incorporated, gin machinery/equipment manufacturers and suppliers, and select land grant universities.
The U.S. cotton industry soon will be promoting – and strongly recommending the use of – a voluntary round module wrap standard that was developed by industry in conjunction with USDA Agriculture Research Service scientists and the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE).
This initiative is a result of the U.S. cotton industry taking all necessary measures to prevent plastic contaminants from entering baled cotton – including module wrap. Research has proven that if round modules are delivered to gins in good condition, (no tears, punctures, loose material, or adhesive failures), then the likelihood of plastic entering the gin, and ultimately the ginned bale, is greatly reduced. Module wrap documents and other resources aimed at helping industry members prevent contamination are on NCC’s website at www.cotton.org/tech/quality/contamfree.cfm.
The ASABE’s Cotton Engineering Committee recently updated the “Cotton Module Cover Material Performance” (S615.2) standard to include testing requirements and performance specifications for round module wrap. The updated standard’s goal is defining minimum performance levels for round module wrap products to 1) protect stored seed cotton from quantity/quality losses and 2) minimize plastic contamination in ginned lint.
The ASABE S615.2 standard, at www.asabe.org/Portals/0/aPubs/S615.pdf, should be reviewed by wrap manufacturers before beginning the process to demonstrate compliance. This guide describes the required testing and resulting minimum performance levels that a wrap product must meet or exceed to achieve compliance with ASABE S615.2.
Last week, President Biden’s nomination for the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division failed to pass the Senate. David Weil, who was the Wage and Hour Division head under President Obama had been nominated some months ago by President Biden.
The nomination made it out of committee when one Republican Senator was not able to make the meeting when his nomination came up and it was moved to the full Senate by one vote. The vote on March 30, failed by 3 votes 53-47 with Democratic Senators Manchin, Sinema, and Kelley voting against.
Under President Obama there were a couple of notable “accomplishments” that we know would have (probably are) on Wage and Hour’s agenda. One of the most widely impactful was the nearly doubling of the minimum salary for certain employees to qualify as exempt from overtime. The white-collar exemptions minimum was increased under President Trump but only a portion of what the Obama Administration and Mr. Weil had wanted. The Obama increase was stopped by a Federal court in Texas. Mr. Weil also put out, what many considered overreach by the department in the form of a guidance memo on who and who was not an independent contractor. That was rescinded when President Trump was elected.
So…the Wage and Hour Division still doesn’t have a division head. We will wait and see what is next but there’s a certain amount of “Devil you know vs. Devil you don’t know” in the air. We pretty much knew what we were going to get with Mr. Weil and we have no idea about the next nominee. For now the various divisions are doing their own thing but we will see where that heads. Status quo with the exception of the Division receiving a fair amount of additional funds in the budget to hire more inspectors.
Almost half of the states in the US have chosen to make employee safety and the creation and enforcement of safety rules a state matter. These are called state-plan states and they have a state version of OSHA instead of having Federal OSHA regulate the workplace.
In mid-2020, Virginia, a state-plan state, took the unprecedented leap to create the nation’s first Emergency Temporary Standard for Covid-19. It set the bar for other states like California and Oregon to follow. Temporary standards are meant to be just that…temporary. They normally have an expiration on them. Virginia went on to make a few changes to the temporary rule and then made the rule permanent in early 2021. They JUST REPEALED THAT PERMANENT RULE.
Virginia’s OSH Board has opted to go with guidelines in the place of a standard. The guidelines are as follows: Download them Here
Facilitate employees getting vaccinated and boosted;
Encourage any workers with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home from work and seekadvice on testing and treatment from their physician;
Require all workers infected with COVID-19 virus to stay home;
Provide workers with face coverings or surgical masks, as appropriate;
Encourage good sanitary work habits such as frequent hand washing;
Educate workers on your COVID-19 policies and procedures using accessible formatsand in languages they understand;
Operate and maintain ventilation systems in accordance to manufacturers specifications to achieve optimal performance;
Record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths which are mandatory under VOSH regulations part 1904; and,
Follow other applicable mandatory VOSH standards.
Although the standard has been repealed (As of March 23) employers should still provide a safe workplace under the general duty clause. If you are a Virginia employer, and you have cases you can’t ignore it. Minimizing the spread is the goal.
I read an article earlier in the week that mentioned it was Ladder Safety Month. This got me to thinking about gins and safety training. Most gins tend to focus on a pre-season safety training once the full crew has arrived to begin the new gin season, but what about the year around employees. When you break it down most gins spend 3-4 months each year ginning cotton, and that tends to be the main focus of safety training. What about the other 8-9 months of the year when the tasks being performed are not directly related to the ginning of cotton, how are you training employees to perform these tasks safely? While this article will focus mainly on ladder safety there will be links provided that cover other topics related to off-season safety.
Statistics show there are around 130,000 injuries and 300 or so deaths each year related to ladders. Ladder usage seems like a simple thing and something we all do on a regular basis, but the question is do we do is correctly and safely. The main points that lead to injuries are improper ladder for the task, damaged ladders, and improper technique.
Work environment; hazards like electricity, uneven surfaces, or obstructions can affect the choose of ladder to be used.
Work length required; never stand on the top cap on a step ladder or use the top 3 rungs on and extension ladder.
Duty rating; This is the total amount of weight the ladder will support. This includes the worker and any tools or materials that the ladder will be supporting.
Are all parts of the ladder in good working condition? Look for broken or damaged rungs, rails, feet, and/or braces.
Is the ladder clean? Look for grease, oil, or other debris that could make the rungs slippery.
Confirm the area the ladder will be placed is level, sturdy, and free from hazards.
Be aware of what you are doing and the area around you.
Maintain 3 points of contact with the ladder at all times. Use a towline, tool belt, or helper to convey tools and materials.
Climb slowly and deliberately while always facing the ladder.
Keep your body centered between the rails at all times. Never overreach or lean to the sides while working from a ladder.
Never attempt to move a ladder while standing on it.
I cannot cover all aspects of ladder safety in this article, but did cover some of the most important. Please take a look at some of the links provided to get additional information concerning ladder safety.
OSHA Fact Sheet for extension ladders:
OSHA Fact sheet for Step ladders:
Although this article focuses on ladder safety, take this opportunity of consider other tasks that are being performed in the off-season and make sure you are training your employees to perform these tasks safely. There are several short training lessons covering a wide range of topics provided in chapter 5 of your Safety Reference Manual. If you would like additional information or have questions please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every three years, the USDA and National Cotton Ginners Association publish the results of a “Cost of Ginning Survey”. The 2021 crop is the next crop year to get the official survey. We highly encourage all gins to participate in this survey.
The Survey is used extensively in the intervening years for a wide variety of purposes. Because it has been done (same questions and definitions) in the same way for many years, trends can be traced and changes in the industry followed.
In recent years, the Survey has been done online. There has been a significant push in the past couple of years to make the survey more user friendly and try to work some of the bugs out of the initial online version.
Because there have been some changes and because the Survey is continuing to evolve, we asked Dr. Greg Hold and Harrison Ashley to do a brief webinar over zoom to orient users on how the survey would be conducted. The webinar was held last week and recorded. The link to the recording is below.
Taking the Survey online has really answered a couple of questions we’ve gotten over the years. One was is my data private… Yes. In the past, the survey data was potentially accessible through the Freedom of information act. Once the paper was published, the data was dumped to help mitigate that. Now the National Cotton Ginners Association will be the repository and it is locked up. The other question we’ve gotten is “what’s in it for me?”. The Survey is now an ongoing venture. It will be available every year. You will be able, in the future, to look at your trends over time. Things such as cost per bale of gas or electricity or module hauling. Even in the years when the data will not be a Beltwide paper, you can use the survey to help track your own costs and compare them to other gins in the region or nationally.