Safety and OSHA News

Can OSHA regulate professional sports?

Instead of “Play ball!” will it be “Play ball — but safely”?

It’s not likely, according to a Standard Interpretation Letter (SIL) released recently by OSHA.

A concerned baseball fan, Robert Van Laanen, wrote a letter to OSHA regarding the dangers of new wooden bats shattering.

The fan was concerned that increasing numbers of shattered bats might pose more hazards to players and spectators.

Van Laanen wanted to know if OSHA could press professional baseball to change back to sturdier wooden or metal bats.

The answer: Probably not.

In a response signed by the Director of Enforcement Programs, Richard Fairfax, OSHA said the answer depends on whether pro athletes meet the definition of “employee” under the Occupational Safety and Health Act or whether they’re independent contractors.

OSHA rules might apply only if they’re employees.

Fairfax’s letter goes on to note that the employee or contractor determination would need to be made on a case-by-case basis.

And even if they were considered employees, OSHA doesn’t have any specific, applicable standards that address protection for pro athletes.

What does this all boil down to? This statement: “In most cases, however, OSHA does not take enforcement action with regard to professional athletes.”

Leave it to OSHA to take a nine paragraph letter to say “No.”

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  • Leon

    I am going to hazard a guess that not all employees of a baseball or sports team are contract employees…… How about the umpires, referees, and assistants, such as bat boys? How about the fans in the nearby box seats? Even if some of the players are contracted, it is outrageous that professional sports teams (not to mention the US Congress) should be exempted from OSHA rules with which the rest of us are required to comply.

  • Cheri Wilhelm

    Even if they are Independent Contractors they are under the control of the Team(employer) which should make them regulated by OSHA. In general industry or any other if they are under your control you are liable.

  • Ed Blumberg

    If anyone or any entity REALLY wanted to press this issue, remember OSHA always has the General Duty Clause in its’ back pocket just waiting to “throw the flag” for a penalty. It’s an honest to goodness Federal Catch – 22. There’s no legitimate reason that it wouldn’t work either. All you would need is a complaint from some fan or “employee” to have OSHA investigate. Remember, if it’s not covered by a written standard the GDC will cover it.

  • Jack Watts

    Another example of OSHA picking it’s fights…..usually fights it thinks it can win.

  • Russ

    Dear God please do not allow OSHA to get involved in professional baseball! The players union and television have screwed the game up enough. If you want to see some pitchers get killed, then by all means put an aluminum bat in the hands of these hitters. I don’t know what they are talking about with these “sturdier” bats. Bats generally shatter because of the part of the bat that strikes the ball.