Agricultural wildfire preparedness and OSHA requirements

The devastating wildfire season of 2018 in the wheat growing regions of Wasco and Sherman Counties burned nearly 120,000 acres and tragically resulted in a fatality. In response Oregon OSHA created new requirements in 2019 for producers with employees who engage in suppressing wildfires in farmland and rangelands.

All producers should have the following plans documented:

  • An emergency action plan for medical and fire emergencies
  • Fire prevention plan
  • Job hazard analysis.

If employees will engage in suppressing wildfires beyond the initial incipient stage (what can be controlled with a fire extinguisher or a small hose) they must receive some form of basic wildland firefighting training and an annual refresher. Employees do not need to be red card certified like professionals. If employees are receiving training in a Rangeland Fire Protection Association (RFPA) or as a volunteer firefighter, additional training is not needed.

These requirements are not enforced up front, but producers could be liable if an employee is hurt while suppressing a wildfire.

While these requirements add another layer of regulations, they are encouraging action plans and basic training that will reduce the risk of wildfires to agricultural producers physical and mental health, along with their crops and farm infrastructure. Read more in the documents below, along with templates that can be used to meet some of these requirements. The newly developed online class, Wildfire Preparedness in Agriculture, provides an overview of how to complete the required plans.

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