Valley farmers receiving summer heat instruction

FRESNO, Calif.

Around 400 agriculture farmers, labor contractors and supervisors received a 2 hour lesson Thursday on the dangers of heat exposure.

"Our employers need to make sure they're following the rules, just like the shade tents over here," said Manuel Cunha with the Nisei Farmers League. With summer temps on the horizon, agriculture and workplace safety groups are offering heat illness prevention classes to farm leaders in both English and Spanish.

"In the hot weather they need to be drinking water or those type of nourishment drinks, wear the right clothing, take breaks and when you don't feel good, go to the crew boss or the supervisor and say, 'I got a headache, I don't feel good, can I sit down,'" said Cunha.

Failure to provide shade, cool drinking water and emergency aid instructions to farm workers can result in citations - especially when temperatures reach triple digits. "We try to make sure that employers understand what's required under the standard so we take care of the enforcement end of it, we go out and do inspections to try to ensure compliance," said Chris Lee, deputy chief of enforcement for the California Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

"We as employers, we know the rules and regulation and laws but we have to pass it on down to our crew leaders and supervisors to where it will get to our workers," said Earl Hall.

Hall oversees more than 2,000 farm workers throughout the Central Valley and was cited several years ago for not providing adequate shade - a mistake he corrected after attending one of the sessions. "Labor is our business and if we don't take care of our people, we're out of business," said Hall.

"It gets extremely hot and sometimes the temperature gets unbearable," said Alfonso Victoria. Victoria has been working the fields for more than 25 years and says he's seen a lot of changes in recent years. "Workers now know they must have access to water," said Victoria. He admits he's worked for farmers in the past who would not provide access to shade but the regulations are improving summer work conditions.

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