OSHA: Safety Committees, Safety Meetings in Wineries

Safety is a priority for our industry, whether in the field, during sorting, in production, and bottling. And our federal and state workplace safety agencies, OSHA, want to ensure we’re doing all we can to keep ourselves, our employees, and our customers safe.

OSHA mandates industries with fewer than twenty employees to hold regular safety committee meetings. Because wineries don’t really do much office tasks, we should be having them monthly, on a regular basis.

The committee should be – must be – made up of at least two folks – one person who is “a part of management” – I take that to be you, the owner – and the other someone whom the employees elect or select or volunteer. This is to prevent someone from rubber-stamping an employer’s lax safety regime (which would never happen).

The meetings should cover training of safety and health issues; hazardous situations; and recent/previous workplace accidents. I foresee the following topics: cleaning barrels and tanks; safe use of forklifts; opening doors during harvest; sterilizing equipment; COVID protocol. You should also have inspections of the premises at least once a year – you’ll be surprised what a new set of eyes can see.

Someone in the meetings should take notes and make those minutes available to other employees. Make sure the notes are dated and include the issues discussed and who attended!

Common questions – can more than two folks attend? Certainly! I would love for all employees to attend, but of course that’s not always necessary or a use of resources. Should the time spent in these meetings be paid? Yes indeed. Make sure to pay for attending the meetings, even if someone “volunteers” to show up. (And remember – no such thing as volunteers for for-profit entities in America!)

And a special instruction for owners – never (ever) retaliate against any employee for flagging safety concerns. Always cooperate with OSHA agents conducting a spot inspection. And make sure everyone driving the forklift is certified!