FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
IR #2009-31
September 28, 2009

CONTACT:
Erika Monterroza
Dean Fryer
(415) 703-5050

Internet: www.dir.ca.gov


Cal/OSHA conducts 305 heat inspections; continues to see increased compliance

Oakland – The Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) last week conducted their largest ever heat enforcement effort per Governor Schwarzenegger’s direction and in response to increased heat across all regions of the state. The inspections, which were conducted Monday through Saturday, involved up to as many as 43 teams a day statewide. Two farm operations were shut down for serious violations of the heat illness prevention standard that posed an imminent hazard to the employees working in excessive heat.

“Due to the extreme heat experienced last week we mobilized the largest ever enforcement action in Cal/OSHA history,” said DIR Director John C. Duncan. “Our effort to protect workers from the high temperatures and ensure compliance by employers was a success. As was evidenced by our results, the outreach and enforcement efforts conducted this year are paying off. We are seeing a higher level of compliance by employers which has been our goal from day one.”

On Tuesday, Sep 22, an inspection team observed a crew of nine employees working in a celery field in 97 Fahrenheit degree heat with no shade or drinking water near Perris in Riverside County. Upon further investigation it was discovered that the employer had no written emergency program in place and no training as required by heat illness prevention regulations. The Perris-based employer, Green East Inc., received an Order Prohibiting Use (OPU) thereby prohibiting the grower from conducting any outdoor work until the violations are remedied. The restriction was lifted on Thursday, Sep 24 after the grower demonstrated compliance with the heat illness prevention regulations.

Also on Thursday, Sep 24, Cal/OSHA investigators found a crew of ten employees harvesting raisins near Fresno without access to shade. The Fresno-based employer, All American Labor Service Inc., also failed to have a written emergency program in place and was issued an OPU stopping all outdoor work. The restriction was lifted on Saturday, Sep 26 after the farm labor contractor demonstrated compliance with the heat illness prevention regulations.

“While we are seeing a greater level of compliance to the heat illness prevention regulations and we believe this is largely due to cooperative efforts between Cal/OSHA and responsible industry leaders, we will continue to take a zero tolerance approach to those few employers who put the lives of their employees in danger,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Len Welsh. “Our enforcement efforts are designed to seek out the most flagrant violators of heat illness prevention requirements and halt their operations on the spot when necessary to protect their employees from the imminent hazard of high heat.”

The week long enforcement action resulted in a total of 305 inspections conducted statewide. Cal/OSHA investigators encountered heat related violations at 91 outdoor worksites. For those worksites with heat related violations, 50 were construction worksites, 39 were in the agricultural industry, one was a recycling business and one a car wash. A total of 119 heat related violations were observed. Serious violations occurred in San Bernardino, Contra Costa, Riverside, Amador and Fresno Counties. Violations include no shade, no water, no training and no emergency response procedures.

Of the companies with serious heat related violations, six were observed in the agricultural industry and one is a recycler. The agricultural industry employers included the two companies mentioned above with OPUs – Green East Inc. and All American Labor Service Inc. as well as M&R Packing Company in Martell (no water) and Yoogil Farms, Inc. in Chino (no training). Citations classified as serious were also issued to JA Contracting, Jackson Valley Vineyards and Jose Monteon. The Martinez-based recycler, Contain-A-Way dba NexCycle, had two serious violations for no water or shade provided for its employees.

Prior to this week’s enforcement activities, Cal/OSHA had conducted 2,485 inspections of outdoor workplaces looking for heat violations this year, just under the number conducted during all of 2008, and cited employers for over 700 violations.

“Gaining compliance from employers is the goal to successfully reducing the number of illnesses and fatalities for all outdoor workers,” added Duncan. “In 2006, employer compliance with this new regulation was at 32.5% and last year was at 65%. This year we are seeing employer compliance above 80% which we expect to increase next year due to education and enforcement efforts.”

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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