“We have a zero tolerance policy when employers put their workers at risk, especially during times of high heat,” said the Department of Industrial Relations Director John C. Duncan. “And we’ll continue to take a coordinated, proactive approach to ensure compliance of the heat illness prevention regulations and labor laws which are both designed to provide safeguards for workers.”
On Aug. 11, Cal/OSHA investigators issued an Order Prohibiting Use (OPU) to stop all outdoor work at URI Brothers Farm Inc. in Bakersfield, Calif. upon discovering 21 employees picking watermelons and radishes with no shade, inadequate water, no heat illness program or training. Temperatures exceeded 100 degrees at the time of the inspection.
The following day, a crew of five was discovered working in violation of the order and an investigator subsequently interceded and enforced the OPU. URI Brothers Farm Inc. is subject to a misdemeanor for this breech and could face a $1,000 fine and/or up to a year in jail if found guilty of the offense. Cal/OSHA lifted the OPU on Aug. 13 when the grower demonstrated compliance with the standards. URI Brothers Farm is required to notify Cal/OSHA of work crews’ activities and locations on the 50-acre ranch every Monday morning.
Cal/OSHA also issued two OPUs on Aug. 12 at a construction site in Sacramento, Calif., where they found inadequate shade for employees working in 97-degree heat. On Aug. 13, the OPU issued to general contractor De Silva Gates and subcontractor Preston Pipeline Inc. was lifted upon observing that adequate shade had been provided.
Cal/OSHA continues to conduct targeted enforcement efforts, especially during periods of high heat. So far this year, a total of 1,997 inspections have been conducted to enforce heat illness compliance and 531 violations of the regulations have been documented. A total of $453,573 in penalties has been assessed.
“In 2006, when the regulations were made permanent, compliance was 33 percent for all heat inspections conducted, today it’s 85 percent,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Len Welsh. “We will continue to enforce the regulations and shut workplaces down when necessary.”
California became the first state in the nation to develop a safety and health regulation addressing occupational heat illness in 2005. Cal/OSHA issued permanent heat illness prevention regulations to protect outdoor workers in 2006.
For additional information about heat illness prevention and training materials, visit the Cal/OSHA Web site. Employees with work-related questions or complaints, including heat illness, may call the California Workers’ Information Hotline at 866-924-9757.