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Meetings Aimed at Preventing Valley Workers’ Heat Illness

From FresnoBee.com, “Meetings aimed at preventing Valley workers’ heat illness” by Robert Rodriguez, The Fresno Bee, 26 Mar 2011.

It may be weeks before Valley temperatures begin to climb, but farmers and farm-labor contractors are getting ready for a series of seminars aimed at protecting workers from heat illness.

On Tuesday, a coalition of farming groups will begin a series of statewide training workshops. The goal is to remind agriculture employers about the dangers of working in the heat and how to comply with California’s 2005 heat-illness prevention law.

The first meeting, at the C.P.D.E.S. Hall, 172 W. Jefferson Ave. in Easton, is expected to draw several hundred growers, contractors and supervisors.

Other meetings are scheduled throughout the state in March, April and May.

Representatives of the California Department of Industrial Relations, Cal/OSHA will also be at the meetings to answer any questions.

California’s heat-illness prevention law is the nation’s most comprehensive law designed to protect outdoor workers from heat illness. It was passed after 12 outdoor workers died as a result of working in extreme heat.

Since then, Cal/OSHA has stepped up inspections and enforcement.

The agriculture industry has also responded by working to educate employers about the law.

Organizers say the meetings are an important way to keep people up to date on any changes in the regulations or technology that has been developed.

Last year, nearly 1,600 growers, farm-labor contractors and supervisors attended the series of meetings.

As part of the law, employers must provide plenty of cool water; ready access to shade; full and complete training; and written procedures identifying the company’s heat-illness prevention program.

Many employers provide portable shade structures that they move from field to field. But a few contractors have created custom-built shade trailers.

Fresno County farm-labor contractor Earl Hall will be at Tuesday’s meeting demonstrating a trailer he built for his company.

Hall has more than 100 trailers that include water, shade, a resting place and bathrooms. Each trailer cost about $1,200 to build, but it’s an expense Hall doesn’t mind.

“We could do just the minimum, but that is not how I run my company,” Hall said. “My business is labor, and I have to take care of my workers, because if I don’t, I don’t have a company.”

The Nisei Farmers League, California Grape and Tree Fruit League, California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations, Western Agricultural Processors Association, Fresno County Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations are sponsoring the series of seminars.

Manuel Cunha, president of the Nisei Farmers League, said the Igloo company also will be on hand to show a new shade structure it has developed. The structure has side curtains that can be pulled down for more shade.

The side of the curtain also has a place where the employers can write down the location of the field, an important detail in the event emergency personnel are needed.

THE REPORTER CAN BE REACHED AT BRODRIGUEZ@FRESNOBEE.COM OR (559) 441-6327.

Read at: FresnoBee.com, “Meetings aimed at preventing Valley workers’ heat illness” by Robert Rodriguez, The Fresno Bee, 26 Mar 2011.

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