Cal/OSHA Prohibits Farm Laborers from Working at Two Sites

July 16, 2010
Cal/OSHA, fearing some employers put workers at risk by not providing adequate protection from triple-digit heat in the state, have cracked down on several employers.

Enforcement efforts on July 13 resulted in the halting of two farming operations with outdoor workers at sites near Winchester, Calif.. Operations at Rheingans Farms and Greenfield Inc, were shut down because of their workers were exposed to high heat under circumstances where major violations of the heat illness prevention standard existed. These employers can resume their operations only after Cal/OSHA determines that they have implemented all of the protective measures required by California's heat illness prevention standard.

“For employees working outdoors, exposure to high temperatures without basic protective measures like water, shade breaks, training and emergency preparedness can be life threatening,” said Len Welsh, chief of Cal/OSHA. “We will not hesitate to stop an employer's operations when we find this kind of situation. Whenever temperatures are rising into the 90s and 100s, as they have been this week, employers need to make sure they are covering all the bases when it comes to heat illness prevention.”

At Rheingans Farms, temperatures were in the 90s by noon. Investigators stopped there and found employees working in a field without access to shade. The employer had provided no water and employees had to bring their own or go without. The employer had no heat illness prevention program and no provision for how to respond in the event an employee became ill from the heat.

At the Greenfield worksite, investigators found employees working in a vegetable field and measured the temperature to be 98 degrees. The employer had no shade, no heat illness prevention program, no training and no emergency procedures.

Each of these employers was issued an Order Prohibiting Use (OPU) to halt their operations until they come into full compliance with the heat illness prevention standard.

In 2005, California became the first state in the nation to develop a safety and health regulation addressing heat illness. Cal/OSHA issued permanent heat illness prevention regulations to protect outdoor workers in 2006.

For more information on heat illness prevention and training materials visit the Cal/OSHA Web site at http://www.dir.ca.gov/heatillness.

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