FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
IR #2008-49
July 9, 2008

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


DIR Partners with Agriculture Organizations to Conduct Heat Illness Training for Farm Labor Contractors

Fresno, Calif.—July 9, 2008— As a heat wave scorched rural areas, the Schwarzenegger administration today announced a first-time, statewide partnership with California’s agricultural community to quickly deliver critical heat illness prevention training to protect employees of the more than 1,400 licensed farm labor contractors.

The Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) and its Division of Occupational Safety & Health (DOSH) at a press conference with key members of the agricultural community committed to a series of 13 heat illness prevention training sessions across California.

“This unprecedented training partnership is an excellent step toward achieving the requirements to prevent heat illness,” said Victoria Bradshaw, Secretary of the Labor & Workforce Development Agency, which oversees DIR and DOSH. “We support this training effort and this partnership which will help reduce deaths and illnesses by making everyone aware of the deadly toll heat can take on workers.”

Under Governor Schwarzenegger’s leadership the state became the first in the nation to develop safety and health regulations addressing heat illness in 2005.

The farm labor contractor training program, scheduled at nine locations in July and four in August, will cover all four elements of the Heat Illness Prevention Program (Sect. 3395) employers are required to have and implement, including written procedures outlining steps to take to prevent heat illness and an emergency plan if symptoms occur; providing and encouraging workers to drink cool water; providing ready access to shade; and conducting full and complete heat illness training for both supervisors and workers on how to recognize the symptoms of heat illness and what to do about it.

“This innovative partnership with agricultural organizations should reduce further fatalities during times of high temperature,” said DIR Director John C. Duncan. “Heat illness prevention is critical and we applaud the members of the industry who are willing to take these special steps to eliminate this hazard.”

Employers are cited most often for failing to have written heat illness procedures, followed by failure to train employees and supervisors about the symptoms of heat illness, Cal/OSHA enforcement statistics show. Cal/OSHA issued more than $800,000 in heat illness fines to industries in 2007.

Seminars will begin on Thursday, July 10 at the Fresno County Farm Bureau office, 1274 W. Hedges Ave., with a Spanish session from 1 to 2:30 p.m. followed by an English session from 3 to 4:30 p.m. RSVPs can be made to Nisei Farmers League at (559) 251-8468 or the Fresno County Farm Bureau office at (559) 237-0263. The training seminars will be held at various locations through August 7. A full schedule of sessions will be posted on the DIR Web site at www.dir.ca.gov/heatillness today.

Among the agricultural organizations co-sponsoring the training are Nisei Farmers League, farm bureaus from Fresno, Kern, Merced, and Tulare counties, as well as the California Farm Bureau Federation, the Ventura County Agricultural Association and the California Farm Labor Contractor Alliance. Also included are grower groups such as California Citrus Mutual, Cotton Ginners & Growers, California Dairy Campaign, Raisin Bargaining Association, and the Western Pistachio Association. In all, the groups represent nearly 80 percent of the California agricultural industry.

For more information on 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 may call the California Workers’ Information Hotline at 1-866-924-9757.

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