Heat wave brings health concerns to farm workers

FRESNO, Calif.

That is 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 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.

"We would issue that to effect immediate correction out in the fields before employees would be allowed to work," said Bill Krycia a Heat Enforcement Coordinator.

Cal-OSHA has already issued two prohibiting orders to Valley employers.

The first was at Etchegaray Farms in Tulare County, after a field worker was found unresponsive in what is being investigated as a possible heat-related death.

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

"We felt at the time, there were potential imminent hazards to employees, with respect to lack of heat illness prevention," Krycia said.

And 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 from the Nisei Farmers League.

Cunha with the Nisei Farmers League 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 p.m. or 1 p.m. the latest," Cunha said.

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

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