The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) announced Wednesday that it has cited two farm labor contractors for violating heat illness prevention standards in 2011. One of the violations resulted in a fatality.
• After two workplace incidents of heat illness in July — one of them fatal — Cal/OSHA investigated two farm labor contractors.
• Both were cited for violating state heat illness prevention standards.
• One case involved a 47-year-old man who collapsed in a cantaloupe field in 102-degree heat. He died.
• The other case involved a 16-year-old boy who collapsed in 103-degree heat but later recovered.
• California was the first state in the country to adopt heat illness regulations to protect farm workers, in 2005.
The two companies cited by the workplace safety agency were AgPrime Corporation of Los Banos and C. Clunn Consulting of Holtville, according to a report in the Bakersfield Californian. Both incidents occurred in July.
Cal/OSHA cited C. Clunn Consulting for the death of 47-year-old Romero Vasquez, who was loading 40-pound boxes of cantaloupe at a farm in Blythe when he collapsed in 102-degree heat. He was taken to a hospital, where he died.
C. Clunn was fined $74,125. Cal/OSHA officials said the company violated state regulations by failing to provide employees or supervisors with training on how to identify and treat symptoms of heat illness, according to a CBS News report. Investigators said the company did not have proper emergency medical procedures in place.
“Heat illness is totally preventable and should not occur if proper procedures are followed.,” Cal/OSHA chief Ellen Widess said in a statement. “We take any heat-related incident seriously and enforce our standard to the fullest extent possible.”
California’s heat illness prevention standards were introduced in 2005 to protect the state’s 450,000 seasonal farm workers. The regulations were the first of their type in the nation.
AgPrime Corporation was cited and fined $61,425 over an incident in which a a 16-year-old boy became ill while picking bell peppers with his guardians in 105-degree heat. A supervisor was made aware that the boy was sick, but did not get medical help for him. The boy later recovered.
Cal/OSHA investigators found that AgPrime did not provide adequate water, shade, rest breaks, or first aid kits at the work site. Futhermore, they did not train new employees or supervisors to identify and treat symptoms of heat illness. There were no procedures in place to call for medical help.
The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement also fined AgPrime for violating child labor laws.
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