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Get a Tractor Personnel Carrier Variance

Tractor-mounted platforms to transport workers, have been widely used in California, particularly in the southern Central Valley and on the Central Coast. But Cal/OSHA has consistently taken the position that use of such transportation devices violates Cal/OSHA safety standards.

According to the agency, current safety standards prohibit "riders on agricultural equipment other than persons required for instruction or assistance in machine operation." (California Code of Regulations, title 8, section 3441(a)(2)(B).)

On February 24, the agency released a memorandum describing how agricultural employers who wish to use tractor mounted personnel platforms to reduce employee fatigue may to Cal/OSHA apply for a variance from this standard.

Permanent variances. These are granted by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board ("Board"). The employer must show that the proposed variance would provide safety equal to or better than the existing standard. Information about applying for a permanent variance is available at the Board's website.

"Temporary experimental variances" (TEVs). These are granted by Cal/OSHA. A TEV allows an employer to "participate in an experiment . . . designed to demonstrate or validate new and improved techniques to safeguard the health or safety of workers." (Labor Code section 6452). A TEV will allow you to gather the information necessary for the Board to evaluate a permanent variance application.

Generally, TEVs granted by the agency are vaild for one year, and are envisioned to presage an employer application for a permanent variance. Both permanent variances and temporary variances are granted to employers individually; an employer who has not been granted either type fo variance may not use tractor transportation platforms because another employer has been granted a variance.

To apply for a TEV, you must send a signed letter to:

Juliann Sum, Acting Cal/OSHA chief
1515 Clay Street
Oakland, CA 94612

You must identify the section of Cal/OSHA regulations from which you are seeking a variance (in this case, 8 CCR 3441(a)(2)(B)) and describe how you intend to provide equivalent safety to the existing standard.

When the application is received, a Division safety engineer will contact you and may request additional information needed to evaluate the application.

Once your application is complete, the Director of the Department of Industrial Relations will evaluate the application and determine whether to approve the experiment. Division staff will then review the proposed variance conditions and, if appropriate, issue a TEV.

The initial TEV may be in effect for up to one year. If necessary, the Division may renew the variance for up to two 180-day periods. During the period a TEV is in effect, your goal will be to gather sufficient information to allow the Board to determine whether a permanent variance should be granted, and if so, under what conditions.

If a TEV is granted, you will receive a letter that includes the variance conditions, signed by the Director and myself, giving the effective dates of the variance.

Some of the information the agency will require to evaluate an application for a temporary variance will include:

   * Description of how the personnel platform is attached to the tractor, including the specifications for the means of attachment
    * Locations of all fields (closest intersection or equivalent description) where personnel platforms will be used
    * Description of the terrain upon which occupied personnel platforms will be used
    * Engineering design for the tractor mounted personnel platform(s) to be used, including: specifications for materials of construction, weld designs and procedures, and load calculations, including weight of personnel platform and maximum       occupancy load
    * Specific tractors to be used with tractor mounted personnel platforms (manufacturer and model number) including capacity of the tractor (including ballast), and the three point hitch or other point of attachment
    * Electronic copy (PDF or website link) of operating manual for tractors

* Counterweight to be used on each tractor equipped with a personnel carrier

* Written "Personnel Platform Safety Program" in English and Spanish, including:
    * Specification of "Safe Practices" to be adhered to by tractor operators and riders, including any limitations and restrictions of use
    * Specification of the number of riders that will be permitted and work activities to be subject to the variance
    *Procedures employer will use to ensure that all affected employees and supervisors adhere to all "Safe Practices"

* Training program for tractor drivers, and employees who will use personnel platforms and their supervisors. This should include:
    * Instruction to be provided in Spanish and English (and any other language necessary to be understood by employees)
    * Frequency of trainingHow training will be documented
    * How the effectiveness of training will be periodically audited

* Welding certification for employees or contractors who build personnel carriers

* Maintenance and inspection procedures for tractors and personnel platforms including the following inspection forms (in English and Spanish):
    * Daily physical inspection of personnel platforms by drivers and other trained users, and their supervisors
    * Random physical inspection of personnel platforms by employer's safety employees

Note: On all forms, include sufficient space for documenting corrections of any deficiencies discovered during inspections.

* Recordkeeping procedures for maintenance, inspections, corrective actions, and training.

FELS will continue to be in close contact with the agency to monitor the actual experience of growers applying for variances.

Please contact us at 800-753-9073 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any information you can share about your experiences with this variance process.