FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 13, 2009
DIR Enforcement Actions find violations of labor laws and heat regulations
Grower, Construction Contractor Shut Down
San Francisco— The Department of Industrial Relations identifies multiple violations of state laws during enforcement actions conducted by its Divisions of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) and Labor Standards Enforcement (Labor Commissioner). Cal/OSHA shut down one grower in Bakersfield and two construction contractors in Sacramento for violations of the heat illness prevention regulations designed to safeguard employees. In a separate enforcement action, the California Labor Commissioner took action against 39 agricultural employers for not having workers compensation. This week’s enforcement efforts were conducted by Cal/OSHA in conjunction with the California Labor Commissioner and the Economic & Employment Enforcement Coalition (EEEC).
“We have a zero tolerance policy when employers put their workers at risk, especially during times of high heat,” said the Department of Industrial Relations Director John C. Duncan. “And we’ll continue to take a coordinated, proactive approach to ensure compliance of the heat illness prevention regulations and labor laws which are both designed to provide safeguards for workers.”
On Aug. 11, Cal/OSHA investigators issued an Order Prohibiting Use (OPU) stopping all outdoor work at URI Brothers Farm Inc. in Bakersfield upon discovering 21 employees picking watermelons and radishes with no shade, inadequate water, no heat illness program or training. Temperatures exceeded 100 degrees at the time of the inspection.
The following day, a crew of five was discovered working in violation of the OPU and an investigator subsequently interceded and enforced the OPU. URI Brothers Farm, Inc. is subject to a misdemeanor for this breech and could face a $1,000 fine and/or up to a year in jail if found guilty of the offense. Cal/OSHA lifted the OPU on Aug. 13 when the grower demonstrated compliance with the standards. URI Brothers Farm is required to notify Cal/OSHA of work crews’ activities and locations on the 50-acre ranch, every Monday morning.
Cal/OSHA also issued two OPUs on Aug. 12 at a construction site in Sacramento where they found inadequate shade for employees working in 97 degree heat. On Aug. 13, the OPU issued to General contractor De Silva Gates and subcontractor Preston Pipeline Inc was lifted upon observing that adequate shade has been provided.
Cal/OSHA continues to conduct targeted enforcement efforts, especially during periods of high heat. So far this year, a total of 1,997 inspections have been conducted to enforce heat illness compliance and 531 violations of the regulations have been documented.
A total of $453,573 in penalties has been assessed.
“In 2006 when the regulations were made permanent, compliance was 33% for all heat inspections conducted, today it’s 85%,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Len Welsh. “We will continue to enforce the regulations and shut workplaces down when necessary.”
With enforcement actions taken this week Cal/OSHA has now issued thirteen OPUs this year against employers for violations of the heat illness prevention standard.
In an earlier statewide enforcement action Deputy Labor Commissioners issued stop work orders to 29 agricultural employers for not having workers’ compensation coverage for their employees. The Aug. 5 and 6 enforcement action also revealed child labor violations and cash payments.
“We cannot allow employers to operate without workers’ compensation coverage and jeopardize the care of any worker who may be injured on the job,” said California Labor Commissioner Angela Bradstreet. “Employers have basic responsibilities when operating in California and by not following these requirements businesses that operate illegally jeopardize the livelihood of legitimate businesses.
Under Gov. Arnold 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 Gov. 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 (866) 924-9757.
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