September Web Exclusive! OSHA Standards: Field Sanitation


Office of Rural & Farmworker HousingOSHA Standards
For Farmers

Field Sanitation

by Chris E. Marsh, M.Ed.


Scope and application

        This section shall apply to any agricultural establishment where 11 or more employees are engaged on any given day in hand labor operations in the field. The "11 or more" means that if you have just one day where you have 11 workers in the field, the farmer is obligated to provide field sanitation as this section explains.

        Agricultural employer means any person, corporation, association or other legal entity that fulfills the following:
  1. Owns or operates an agricultural establishment.
  2. Contracts with the owner or operator of an agricultural establishment in advance of production for the purchase of a crop and exercises substantial control over production.
  3. Recruits and supervises employees or is responsible for the management and condition of an agricultural establishment.
        An agricultural establishment is a business operation that uses paid employees in the production of food, fiber or other materials such as seed, seedlings, plants or parts of plants.

        Hand-labor operations means agricultural activities or agricultural operations performed by hand or with hand tools. Except for purposes of paragraph (c)(2)(iii) of this section, hand-labor operations also include other activities or operations performed in conjunction with hand labor in the field. Some examples of hand-labor operations are the hand-cultivation, hand-weeding, hand-planting and hand-harvesting of vegetables, nuts, fruits, seedlings or other crops, including mushrooms, and the hand packing of produce into containers, whether done on the ground, on a moving machine or in a temporary packing shed located in the field. Hand labor does not include such activities as logging operations, the care or feeding of livestock or hand-labor operations in permanent structures (for example: canning facilities or packinghouses.)

        Hand-washing facility means a facility providing a basin, container or outlet with an adequate supply of potable water, soap and single-use towels.

        Potable water means water that meets the standards for drinking purposes of the state or local authority having jurisdiction, or water that meets the quality standards prescribed by the EPA's National Primary Drinking Water Regulations.

        Toilet facility means a fixed or portable facility designed for the purpose of adequate collection and containment of the products of both defecation and urination, which is supplied with toilet paper adequate to employee needs. Toilet facility includes biological, chemical, flush and combustion toilets and sanitary privies.


        Agricultural employers shall provide the following for employees engaged in hand-labor operations in the field, without cost to the employee.

1. Potable drinking water.

    a. Potable water shall be provided and placed in locations readily accessible to all employees.

    b. The water shall be suitably cool and in sufficient amounts, taking into account the air temperature, humidity and the nature of the work performed, to meet the needs of all employees.

    c. The water shall be dispensed in single-use drinking cups or by fountains. The use of common drinking cups or dippers is prohibited.

2. Toilet and hand-washing facilities

    a. One toilet facility and one hand-washing facility shall be provided for each 20 employees or fraction thereof, except as stated in paragraph (c)(2)(v) of this section.

    b. Toilet and hand-washing facilities shall be accessibly located and in close proximity to each other.

    c. The facilities shall be located within a .25-mile walk of each hand laborer's place of work in the field.

    d. Where due to terrain it is not feasible to locate facilities as required above, the facilities shall be located at the point of closest vehicular access.

    e. Toilet and hand-washing facilities are not required for employees who perform fieldwork for a period of three hours or less (including transportation time to and from the field) during the day.

3. Maintenance

    a. Potable drinking water and toilet and hand-washing facilities shall be maintained in accordance with appropriate public health sanitation practices, including:

    b. Drinking water containers shall be constructed of materials that maintain water quality, shall be refilled daily or more often as necessary, shall be kept covered, and shall be regularly cleaned.

    c. Toilet facilities shall be operational and maintained in clean and sanitary condition.

    d. Hand-washing facilities shall be refilled with potable water as necessary to ensure an adequate supply and shall be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition

    e. Disposal of wastes from facilities shall not cause unsanitary conditions.

4. Reasonable use

    a. The employer shall notify each employee of the location of the sanitation facilities and water and shall allow each employee reasonable opportunities during the workday to use them. The employer also shall inform each employee of the importance of each of the following good hygiene practices to minimize exposure to the hazards in the field of heat, communicable diseases, retention of urine and agricultural residues.

    b. Use the water and facilities provided for drinking, hand-washing and elimination.

    c. Drink water frequently and especially on hot days.

    d. Urinate as frequently as necessary.

    e. Wash hands both before and after using the toilet.

    f. Wash hands before eating and smoking.

Chris E. Marsh, M.Ed. operates Brandywine Farms and Ogeechee Training Service in Statesboro, Ga. The farm operation is mostly vegetables with the intention of planting more nut and fruit trees and berries. He is an OSHA-authorized outreach trainer and part of his outreach is writing articles about OSHA in addition to providing on-site health and safety training. He can be reached at 912-865-4500 or