FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 14, 2009
Cal/OSHA continues enforcement during times of high heat
San Francisco – The Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) continues to focus on heat illness prevention through increased enforcement and education this year. Since the current heat wave began on July 11, Cal/OSHA has conducted 167 inspections of outdoor workplaces identifying over 200 violations while checking for compliance to the heat illness prevention regulations. Gaining compliance from employers is the goal to successfully reducing the number of illnesses and fatalities for all outdoor workers across the state.
“Our increased enforcement and outreach efforts demonstrate the commitment we have to ensuring the safety and health of California workers,” said Department of Industrial Relations Director John C. Duncan. “We are also working with industry, community, and labor groups to educate employers and the public so they understand how to comply with the nation’s first regulation to protect workers from heat-related illnesses and deaths.”
Cal/OSHA continues to conduct targeted enforcement efforts, especially during periods of high heat. This year so far a total of 1,702 inspections have been conducted to enforce compliance with heat illness prevention regulations and 472 violations of regulations have been documented with a total of $415,398 in penalties assessed.
This year, ten employers in the agricultural industry were ordered by Cal/OSHA to stop operations at outdoor worksites due to violations of the heat illness prevention standard that posed an imminent hazard for their employees. One employer had less than one gallon of water for a team of fifteen employees working in 116 degree heat in Coachella. All but one of the employers have corrected the hazards and are now back in operation, although they still faced citations with stiff penalties for violations of heat illness prevention regulations. Over $45,500 in penalties has been issued in connection with these actions.
“Our primary focus continues to be on enforcement of the heat illness prevention standard to ensure employer compliance,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Len Welsh. “Our enforcement and education efforts, which continue to exceed the output of prior years, are beginning to show results. While we are seeing significantly more compliance over previous years, for which we thank the industry groups for their leadership, we continue to find pockets of noncompliance, and we will meet that challenge head on.”
Outreach efforts on the subject have been greatly enhanced and expanded, thanks to participation and partnership with industry, labor, and community groups. This year a total of 934 heat illness prevention outreach activities have been conducted, including seminars, presentations, training sessions, and media interviews. Media features and interviews have also increased public awareness of this topic.
Training conducted in partnership with a coalition of seventeen agricultural groups, including the California Farm Bureau and Nisei Farmers League, was expanded to train farm labor contractors, as well as their crew leaders and the growers who hire them. Over 4,000 have attended this training series since it was launched in March.
The Catholic Diocese has provided a supportive environment to reach out to many in our community. Educational materials on heat illness prevention have been distributed to the Diocese across the state. The Diocese of Fresno and Monterey have both held events to train key migrant leaders and volunteers in the agriculture community on educating workers about heat illness prevention. Cal/OSHA trainers have also held informational meetings and distributed heat illness educational pamphlets out to Spanish and Mixteco monolingual migrant workers directly.
Since 2008, the California Department of Education’s Migrant Education program has brought important heat illness prevention training to teachers and administrators statewide who have then educated students and their families about heat stress and their rights. This group continues to provide information to migrant families statewide.
Cal/OSHA has participated in over 2,300 outreach events, including health fairs and community events in key areas across the state, distributing materials and speaking directly with the public about this important subject since the regulation was first implemented in 2005.
Under Governor Schwarzenegger's leadership, California became the first state in the nation to develop a safety and health regulation addressing heat illness in 2005. Cal/OSHA issued permanent heat illness prevention regulations to protect outdoor workers in 2006.
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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