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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingMarch 14 - March 20, 2018

OSHA and Towing

OSHA.SMB 7da80By Brian J. Riker

February brings about thoughts of spring and the coming warmer days promised, but it also triggers the annual period for posting updated accident and injury reports as required by OSHA. This is when most employers with 10 or more employees post their Form 300 from the previous calendar year.

Does OSHA regulate the towing industry? This has been debated for as long as I can recall; the short answer is a big YES.

As far back as 2002, there has been an industry classification code specifically for the towing industry, and it has never been on the exempted industries list (the current NAICS Code is 488410).

OSHA is a complicated but predictable agency. You may have some protection from random inspections and enforcements if your state has their own occupational safety and health agency.

Ultimately, all industries must comply with at least the basic principles of the OSH Act. The Act makes it an employer's duty to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards, known as the General Duty Clause.

While OSHA clearly regulates all activities at a fixed place of business, they do not have jurisdiction over activities that are regulated by another federal agency such as the Department of Transportation. This means if your towing company engages in interstate commerce and is subject to U.S. DOT regulation, you may have to answer to two or more agencies regarding employee health and safety.

Still not sure about OSHA regulations and the towing industry? A cursory search of OSHA records since 2002 return 187 inspection details, 61 involving struck-by-type accidents mostly occurring along public roadways. These inspections resulted in enforcement actions against towing companies with fines ranging from a few hundred dollars to more than $12,000.

Inspections have occurred all across the country, including in some states that have notably strong state-run OSHA programs like California. No state is excluded from OSHA enforcement, nor is any employer—even the self-employed and family-only operations.

With reporting requirements, do not confuse the under-10 employee threshold for posting injury reports with the fact that OSHA applies to your operation. Additionally, this threshold does not apply if there is a serious injury resulting in hospitalization, loss of an appendage, eyesight or death. Any accident resulting in any of those conditions must be immediately reported to the nearest OSHA office for investigation. Further, should you be a large employer (250 or more employees), there is also an electronic reporting requirement that took effect last year.

For a deeper dive into OSHA and the towing industry, please register for my seminar during the American Towman ShowPlace-Las Vegas, where I will go into more detail regarding the federal OSHA program and how it interacts with various state agencies, most significantly in California.

Brian J. Riker is a third generation towman and President of Fleet Compliance Solutions, LLC. He specializes in helping non-traditional fleets such as towing, repossession, and construction companies navigate the complex world of Federal and State transportation regulatory compliance. With 25 years of experience in the ditch as a tow operator Brian truly understands the unique needs and challenges faced by towing companies today. He can be reached at
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