Rain boosts farm worker heat prevention event

FRESNO, Calif.

With the cool, rainy start to our day, you might not realize we've hit 80-degrees ten times this year. Once we reach 85, heat safety precautions must be taken for those who work outside.

The storm created wet and muddy conditions and kept many workers away from Valley fields. Tree thinning jobs were halted in several orchards as well but the work disruption meant a packed house at the CPDES Hall in Easton.

"A lot of them got short days today because of the rain," said Jose Gonzales, Jr. "Some of them didn't even go to work so they took the opportunity to be over here. Usually right now we're thinning stone fruit. But the rain stopped us."

Training sessions on preventing heat related illness were held in both Spanish and English. Hundreds of labor contractors, supervisors and laborers packed the hall. They were reminded once we hit 85 degrees, shade structures and hydration stations are required by law for anyone who works outdoors. Jose's been working the fields since he was 11.

Jose said, "Before we thought it was an advantage but now we know it's the enemy and it can get us."

Local Ag leaders helped Cal/OSHA launch its statewide heat illness prevention campaign. Last year 1,379 heat violations were cited by Cal/OSHA. 471 more than the year before.

Ellen Widess said, "We also saw no heat deaths in agriculture this past year even though it was the hottest summer in history."

Despite the wet and cool conditions, Widess reminded everyone of the importance of water, rest and shade as we warm back up.

Widess added, "Workers who are going into high heat from cold like a cold day today really have to be acclimatized. They have to get used to the heat.

Cal/OSHA inspectors reported a 73 percent compliance rate throughout the state last year. A number they hope will rise.

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