FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
IR #2008-54
August 12, 2008

CONTACT:
Dean Fryer
(415) 703-5050
Internet: www.dir.ca.gov


Cal/OSHA Cites and Fines Farm Labor Contractor for Heat Illness Prevention Regulation Violations

San Francisco—August 12 , 2008—The Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Occupational Safety & Health (Cal/OSHA) has assessed fines of $77,900 against a Galt-based farm labor contractor found to be in violation of California’s heat illness prevention regulations.

An investigation of Solis Farm Labor Contractor (Solis FLC) was opened May 29, 2008 after the death of Maria Vasquez Jimenez, an employee of Merced Farm Labor Contractor (Merced FLC), who had been working in a San Joaquin County vineyard for nine hours with little water and no shade. Employees of Solis FLC were working in the same vineyard as Jimenez and other employees of Merced FLC.

While Jimenez was not employed by Solis FLC, many of the health and safety violations that contributed to her death were also observed by Cal/OSHA investigators at the Solis FLC work site.

“We will not tolerate employers who put their workers’ lives at risk by violating key provisions of the heat illness prevention regulations,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Len Welsh. “All California employers are required to provide a safe and healthful workplace and this company failed to do so.”

Last month, Cal/OSHA issued citations and fines of $262,700 against Merced FLC, and Cal/OSHA has referred the case to the San Joaquin County District Attorney for possible criminal prosecution.  The fines are the largest assessed to an agricultural firm since the permanent heat illness prevention regulations were implemented in 2006. Both Merced FLC and Solis FLC have been ordered not to operate until they can prove they are in compliance with the heat regulations.

Citations issued Monday to Solis FLC were for failure to provide heat illness prevention training to employees and supervisors, failure to provide access to a shaded area for recovery periods of no less than five minutes and failure to have procedures in place to respond to medical emergencies.

In addition, citations were issued for failure to provide single-use disposable cups at water stations, failure to fully implement an illness and injury prevention program, failure to have written procedures for complying with heat illness prevention requirements, and failure to maintain a properly equipped first aid kit at the work site.

Under California law, employers are required to have a written heat illness prevention program, train all employees and supervisors about the dangers of heat illness, and provide adequate and accessible shade and enough cool, accessible water for each employee to drink at least four cups per hour.

Employers are also required to have a written heat illness prevention program, train all employees and supervisors about the dangers of heat illness, and provide adequate and accessible shade and enough cool, accessible water for each employee to drink at least four cups per hour.

“We are working with the agricultural industry to make sure all their supervisors and employees are properly trained to recognize the symptoms of heat illness and how to respond to it,” said Len Welsh. “At the same time, our inspectors are out in the fields working diligently to enforce the training, water and shade required in heat illness regulations.”

So far this year, Cal/OSHA has:

“Our increased enforcement and outreach efforts demonstrate the commitment we have to ensuring protections for California workers,” said DIR Director John C. Duncan. “In addition, the establishment of partnerships with industry and employee organizations allows us to expand our reach to educate more employers and employees than in previous years. In this regard, California once again leads the way.”

For more information about the prevention of heat illness, visit the Web site at www.dir.ca.gov/heatillnessinfo.html. Employees who have work-related questions or complaints can call the California Workers’ Information Hotline at 1-866-924-9757.

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