Cal-OSHA cracks down on farm heat regulations

July 23, 2013 6:52:41 AM PDT
The Valley is expected to go through another triple digit heat wave this week, and that brings many health concerns.

The summer months can be a drag for those working the fields in this intense heat. That's why inspectors with Cal-OSHA are making sure employers provide plenty of shade and water. If not they can face stiff penalties.

Shade, water, and breaks. These are just some of the state requirements employers must provide to their outdoor workers. Employers who fail to do so are penalized with an order that stops all outdoor operations.

This summer, Cal-OSHA has already issued 2 prohibiting orders to Valley employers. The first was at Etchegaray Farms in Tulare County after a field worker was found unresponsive in what's being investigated as a possible heat-related death.

The second was at Reitz Ranches in Fresno County. The order was still in effect Monday morning after inspectors found no shade, drinking water, or a first aid kit on hand earlier this month.

Ag leaders say there are no excuses for businesses not in compliance.

"No matter how many classes you take, how much you train and materials, there's going to be some businesses that aren't going to follow the rules. And when they get caught, they need to pay the penalty," said Manuel Cunha, Nisei Farmers League.

Cunha says the ag industry is doing better to prevent heat-related illnesses. "Farmers and farm labor contractors change their schedules, starting earlier, and getting done at 12 or 1 o clock the latest.

Still, inspectors will be out to make sure heat-related illnesses are prevented. And even though Cal-OSHA is still investigating many of these heat-related cases, they can still issue citations.


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