FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 21, 2009
EEEC shuts down five farm labor contractors during enforcement of heat regulations
Coachella—As part of this week’s three day enforcement efforts by the Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition (EEEC) five farm labor contractors have been shut down for violations of the heat illness prevention regulations designed to safeguard employees. Four of the contractors provided no shade for workers and one had less than a single gallon of water for fifteen employees working in temperatures as high as 116 degrees.
“Our enforcement tools include the Order to Prohibit Use which is used to stop employers when employees are exposed to an eminent hazard,” said EEEC Director David Dorame. “We will take action against employers who put the safety of workers in jeopardy during times of high temperatures by stopping their operations until they can prove their ability to safeguard workers.”
Investigators encountered four farm labor contractors with work crews in the Coachella area working in temperatures over 100 degrees with no shade, putting workers at risk of serious illness due to exposure to the sun. Another contractor working a crew near Escondido provided little water for their crew working in a temperature of 116 degrees.
The Order to Prohibit Use (OPU) was used to shut down four employers in the Coachella area including Galvan Brothers Inc. of Mecca, Valley Pride of Coachella, Young’s Nursery of Thermal and Salvador Alvarado of Coachella. An OPU was also issued to Joel Salazar Farm Labor of Escondido. The California Labor Commissioner is investigating the licensing status of these employers as a result of the issuance of the OPUs.
The OPU was first used last year in relation to Cal/OSHA’s heat illness prevention standard, in actions against Merced Farm Labor following the death of Maria Vasquez Jimenez who had been working nine hours in a Lodi vineyard with little water and no shade. Three OPUs were issued in 2008 for similar violations. With enforcement actions taken in the past week Cal/OSHA has now issued eight OPUs this year to shut down farm labor contractors for violations of the heat illness prevention regulations.
In addition to enforcement the EEEC, in partnership with the Department of Industrial Relations, has increased training on heat illness prevention. Since January, over 4,000 agricultural employers across the state have received training. Enforcement has also increased with over 850 heat inspections and more than 250 citations for violations of the heat illness prevention standards being issued since January. In 2008, 2,584 inspections were conducted with 1,134 citations issued.
Heat illness prevention outreach to employees has also increased with the aid of community and employee advocate partners. Partnerships with Central Valley Catholic Diocese, the Department of Education’s Migrant Education Program, and California Rural Legal Assistance among others are in full swing this year.
Under Governor Schwarzenegger's leadership, California became the first state in the nation to develop a safety and health regulation addressing occupational heat illness in 2005. Cal/OSHA issued permanent heat illness prevention regulations to protect outdoor workers in 2006.
Launched in July of 2005 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the EEEC is a multi-agency task force designed to root out California’s underground economy by enforcing California labor laws, and educating business owners and workers about those laws and regulations in workshops held regularly statewide.
For more information about the EEEC program visit http://www.dir.ca.gov/eeec/EEEC.html. For additional information about heat illness prevention and training materials, visit the Cal/OSHA Web site at www.dir.ca.gov/heatillness. Employees with work-related questions or complaints, including heat illness, may call the California Workers’ Information Hotline at 1-866-924-9757.
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