Training session held for Valley outdoor workers as fire season nears

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Exposure to wildfire smoke continues to be a growing concern for those who harvest our food.

Not only must farmworkers deal with extreme heat in the summer but now, bigger, more destructive fires have compounded the health risk.

"All workers that are working outside are exposed to these extreme heat conditions, these high temperatures, the wildfire smoke and Cal/OSHA protects all those workers in a very similar manner," says David Hornung with Cal/OSHA.

Hornung is helping to shine a light on the proper protocols to keep ag workers safe during unhealthy air quality conditions.

A special training session was held for employers Friday at the Portuguese Hall in Easton.

"If you recall or think of these summers when we had wildfire smoke, you can see when the air quality is really bad and when that air quality index is over 150," Hornung said. "It's noticeable, you will see it."

The Farmworker Wildfire Smoke Protections Act was signed into law in California this past September.

AB 73 ensures the state provides N95 masks to farmworkers during a wildfire and allows access to wildfire smoke training.

Employers are also required to monitor the air quality index for fine particulate matter.

Dozens of employers and supervisors attended Friday's training session, including local professional boxer Jose Ramirez, who was there as a representative for his family ag business.

Free PPE and safety equipment were handed out to all attendees.

"We hope they will leave today knowing that they have the procedures, the guidelines and everything available to them so when they go out and train their workers, that now they'll have more materials to give to them," says Manuel Cunha with Nisei Farmers League.

Last year, one ag worker died in California due to heat-related illness while hundreds more were hospitalized after exposure to the extreme heat.
Copyright © 2022 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.