Cal OSHA Inspectors Visit Valley Fields

Fresno, CA For those who toil in the hot valley sun protection is not only needed, it's required by law. Workers don't have to fend for themselves. Erika Monterroza of Cal/OSHA said, "We can't play with people's lives. This is a very imminent hazard situation."

Cal-OSHA inspectors were on the lookout for safety violations in this vineyard near Kerman, where workers were busy laying raisin trays.

Water, bathrooms and access to shade must be nearby for farm laborers. Inspectors found all three during this visit but that isn't always the case. Monterroza said, "We're still seeing employers that think for whatever reason that they don't have to comply with these safety regulations."

Farmers or farm labor contractors not in compliance can be fined up to 25-thousand dollars. This summer 13 companies were forced to shut down until they met safety requirements. Supervisors must be trained in a heat illness prevention program.

Jerry Walker, a District Manager for Cal/OSHA Enforcement, said, "One of the more crucial things is an emergency plan. Employees have to know what to do in case of an emergency."

Last year the state reported three heat-related deaths in the Ag industry. Monterroza said, "So far we've had no confirmed heat-related fatalities this year but we've had a really mild summer."

Cal/OSHA says no major violations were found during Tuesday's inspections. This summer they found 83-percent of the ag sites have been in compliance, compared to 65-percent a year ago.

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