California Farm Operator Shut Down for Heat Illness Concerns

June 16, 2008
The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) issued an order on June 13 to prohibit Solis Farm Labor Contractor from operating in the fields because of the company’s failure to comply with heat illness regulations. Galt, Calif.-based Solis is the second farm labor contractor to be shut down in the state within a 2-day period.

“We are actively pursuing employers who fail to meet our heat illness standards and as we did with Merced Farm Labor yesterday, we are taking this step to ensure that workers employed by this company are not put at risk,’’ said DIR Director John Duncan. “We have evidence to suggest that this company has failed to train its employees and this order will be in force until the company is in full compliance with California heat illness prevention regulations.”

Along with Merced Farm Labor, Solis Farm Labor Contractor was an employer at the Farmington vineyard where Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, a 17-year-old farm worker, became ill and later died after working in high heat without water or shade. Solis Farm Labor Contractor was identified in the course of the investigation into working conditions at the vineyard where Vasquez Jimenez was employed.

California law requires outdoor employers to train supervisors and employees about the symptoms of heat illness, have an emergency medical assistance plan and provide shade and water to workers.

In the ongoing investigation of the Vasquez Jimenez case, investigators uncovered evidence suggesting that Solis Farm Labor Contractor may be continuing to hire and place workers in unsafe and unhealthful working conditions. The investigators issued the Order to Prohibit Use as a precaution.

In an enforcement sweep of more than 25 agricultural work sites in San Joaquin County in June, investigators found numerous violations including 10 employers without illness and injury prevention plans and 20 violations of the heat illness prevention standard. Similar sweeps of outdoor workplaces are conducted daily in most California counties with special teams dispersed when temperatures rise to 100 degrees or more, or when the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services State Warning Center issues a heat wave alert.

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