Heat and Ag Labor

April 21, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
State inspectors have begun checking fields and orchards to make sure growers are complying with Cal-Osha rules on heat illness prevention. The rules are clear and are meant to protect farm workers.Farm workers clearing weeds out of this tomato field in Huron work at a steady pace, even when temperatures heat up. This week it's been so hot you can actually see the heat rise.

Cal-Osha requires farm laborers have access to both shade and cold water. Juan Barrera said he takes regular breaks to make sure he doesn't get sick because it is so hot in the fields.

"It is the responsibility of growers or farm labor contractors to protect employees against heat stress. Once we hit 85-degrees, water coolers and shade must be nearby," said farm worker Juan Barrera (translated from Spanish).

"Everywhere we go we got tents. All our vehicles have extra tents, water jugs. Whatever we need we're ready to go," said Henry Villalobos with Hall Management Corp.

Villalobos said all supervisors must complete a heat illness prevention program. Workers are reminded to drink 3-4 glasses of water every hour. "Whatever they need to drink. It's there available for them anytime. If they need it every ten minutes they can get it every ten minutes."

Workers are also told to notify their supervisor if they have a headache or feel unusually fatigued.

Cal-Osha said last year six occupational deaths were attributed to the heat. Three of them were ag-related.

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