Employers & Employment, Health & Safety, Regulations & Compliance, Work Hazards, Working Conditions

Valley Heat Kills

From CBS47.tv, KGPE, “Valley Heat Kills,” reported by Alexandra Limon, alimon@cbsfresno.com, 29 Mar 2011.

[Fresno, CA] — For most, going home at the end of a work day is a given.

“The worker comes to work then they go home and the importance of that is we’ve got to make sure that that employee gets home to his family,” said Manual Cunha of the Nisei Farmers League, one of the main organizers of the training.

But some farm workers never make it home; the valley heat can be a killer.  So in 2005 Governor Schwarzenegger signed new regulations into law in California.

“To educate farm employees about heat illness because of the problems that we were seeing,” said Cunha.

The annual “Heat Illness Prevention in Agriculture Training” was born.  In essence it gives training that helps keep workers alive.

“Drink water frequently, rest, and always have emergency protocol,” said Leo Reyes, a Supervisor with Reyes Ag Management.

Also, providing shade once temperatures surpass 85 degrees; so far providing the education is working.

“In 2005 there were 12 deaths, last year there were two,” said John Duncan, the Director of the State Department of Industrial Relations.

The goal is to have no deaths, though the focus is prevention the Nisei Farmers League President is also a strong believer in penalties.

“Take their license away from them if they’re a contractor. If they’re a grower who doesn’t want to provide the water and the shade, and all those things, then you need to cite them where it hits them in their pocketbook,” said Cunha.

The rules may seem simple; provide water, shade and safety for employees.  But when the law was enacted, only 35% of the Ag industry in our state was compliant.  Last year, the number was still only at 80% compliance.

Read report at: CBS47.tv, KGPE, “Valley Heat Kills,” reported by Alexandra Limon, alimon@cbsfresno.com, 29 Mar 2011.

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