An settlement was reached between the families of 2 farmworkers who have had heat-related deaths over the past couple of years. The UFW was also engaged in suing the State of California for not aggressively pursuing violators of the heat-illness regulations.
Since those deaths, Cal\OSHA has raised the standards again as we saw with this year’s roll-out of the program in May. However, that was not enough. So, in reaching a resolution to the lawsuits, Cal\OSHA has agreed to sanction the UFW as an official Watchdog. Also, they have agreed to aggressively increase the inspection and overview of agriculture workers in the State over the next few months.
What this means to every farm and ranch owner is that you better go back and review your training and if you are AT ANY POINT not in compliance, you should fix it now or face a real possibility of stiff fines and further inspections. It may also be time to watch your neighbors as well. When they are not in compliance, that draws attention to all locations around them. With UFW on board, they are just looking for a good reason to get onto your property and organize your workers. With the new rules regarding organizing meetings set down by the NLRB and our generous State officials, it could be a very long and difficult Summer.
The California Farm Labor Contractor’s Association sent out the following statement to it’s members:
Beware of Strangers – Control Access to Fields!
Dear CFLCA Members and Others:
Most of you are aware that Cal OSHA recently settled an old lawsuit filed by UFW charging inadequate enforcement of the Heat Illness Prevention standard. That settlement included a memorandum of understanding in which Cal OSHA is required to investigate any reports by UFW staff of non-compliance found among agricultural employers. UFW is now sending representatives to fields under the guise of educational outreach to workers on heat illness prevention. They have been active in the Fresno region. Employers are advised that UFW representatives have NO RIGHT to enter your fields, unless they have filed their Notice of Intent and if access has been granted by the ALRB. The grower would have to receive a copy of the notice. Without such notice, UFW representatives should be asked to immediately leave your premises. Click here for a copy of the questionnaire UFW reps are asking employees to complete. It seeks information regarding employer compliance with the standard. It might be used as evidence against the employer for a violation of the rules. Please train all workers to tell any visitors they must wait to talk to the supervisor. And train all supervisors to check all visitors for identification. For Cal OSHA and other enforcement agencies, the supervisor should advise the government agent to wait while the supervisor calls the designated person (safety/HR/Employer) authorized to allow visitor access to the field. All non-authorized visitors, including UFW and CRLA representatives should be respectfully directed to leave the private property.
More comments from HR Mobile Services, Inc.:
Your best defense is good compliance. Make sure you have plenty of COOL water available, with disposable cups if you use Igloos. Make sure you have someone refilling the buckets regularly and that they have ice to keep it cool. You must have adequate shade and seating for your employees who are outside and under HIGH HEAT situations. You must institute the “buddy system”, your supervisors need to monitor all employees hourly, and more frequent breaks are needed. Employees are allowed cool-down periods also. New employees must be monitored and oriented to the high heat for their first 2 weeks at work, to allow them to adapt.
If you have any questions, you may contact your loss prevention specialist at HR Mobile Services, Inc.