Are California Labor Laws Providing Enough Protection for Employees?

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Two recent deaths of farm workers in California are raising questions regarding how adequate California labor laws are in protecting workers in the state.  The workers, one a farmhand and the other an irrigation line inspector, both died during periods of extreme heat, although an investigation into both deaths are ongoing.  California was the first state to require water and shade breaks for agriculture workers, although many say the laws do not do enough to protect the most vulnerable.
<strong>Economic Pressure</strong>
When workers perform agricultural duties, such as loading produce in the sun or driving heavy machinery, without taking water or shade breaks, they <a href=”http://nfwm.org/education-center/farm-worer-issues/health-safety/”>risk</a> developing heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion or stroke, which can lead to death. Because many farm workers are paid by the piece, they often work under economic pressure to not take time to rest in the shade or drink water due to the loss of income those breaks could incur.
<strong>Cal/OSHA Lawsuit</strong>
In October 2012, farm workers filed a <a href=”http://www.ufworg/_board.php?mode=view&b_code=hotissue&b_no=13005″>lawsuit</a> against the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) for failing to enforce regulation of the California Heat Illness Prevention code established in 2005, which was designed to protect farm workers from heat-related illness and death.  The lawsuit alleged that since the regulation was put into effect, 28 farm workers died of heat-related causes.
<strong>Possible Changes to Regulation</strong>
Cal/OSHA is considering changes to the California Heat Illness Prevention regulation in order to  further prevent heat-related illnesses, holding public hearings throughout the state regarding the matter.  However, some industry sectors covered by the law are requesting that all meetings include information on the necessity and rationale for amending the legislation.  Many of the companies forced to comply with the standards are requesting data on incidents that occurred in compliant vs. non-compliant worksites to provide better information as to whether amendments are necessary or more regulation is the answer to continued workplace deaths due to heat.
Currently, regulations require mandatory training for employees and supervisors in recognizing the signs of heat illness, as well as requiring access to potable drinking water, access to shade and written documentation of all heat-illness prevention procedures.  The regulations were amended in 2010 to include high heat provisions, which require employers to remind employees throughout each shift to drink water when the heat rises above 95 degrees.  If you or someone you love has suffered from a heat-related illness in California, or if a loved one has died after working extreme heat, contact us online or by phone today to learn what rights you may have.

Two recent deaths of farm workers in California are raising questions regarding how adequate California labor laws are in protecting workers in the state.  The workers, one a farmhand and the other an irrigation line inspector, both died during periods of extreme heat, although an investigation into both deaths are ongoing.  California was the first state to require water and shade breaks for agriculture workers, although many say the laws do not do enough to protect the most vulnerable.

<strong>Economic Pressure</strong>

When workers perform agricultural duties, such as loading produce in the sun or driving heavy machinery, without taking water or shade breaks, they <a href=”http://nfwm.org/education-center/farm-worer-issues/health-safety/”>risk</a> developing heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion or stroke, which can lead to death. Because many farm workers are paid by the piece, they often work under economic pressure to not take time to rest in the shade or drink water due to the loss of income those breaks could incur.

<strong>Cal/OSHA Lawsuit</strong>

In October 2012, farm workers filed a <a href=”http://www.ufworg/_board.php?mode=view&b_code=hotissue&b_no=13005″>lawsuit</a> against the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) for failing to enforce regulation of the California Heat Illness Prevention code established in 2005, which was designed to protect farm workers from heat-related illness and death.  The lawsuit alleged that since the regulation was put into effect, 28 farm workers died of heat-related causes.

<strong>Possible Changes to Regulation</strong>

Cal/OSHA is considering changes to the California Heat Illness Prevention regulation in order to  further prevent heat-related illnesses, holding public hearings throughout the state regarding the matter.  However, some industry sectors covered by the law are requesting that all meetings include information on the necessity and rationale for amending the legislation.  Many of the companies forced to comply with the standards are requesting data on incidents that occurred in compliant vs. non-compliant worksites to provide better information as to whether amendments are necessary or more regulation is the answer to continued workplace deaths due to heat.

Currently, regulations require mandatory training for employees and supervisors in recognizing the signs of heat illness, as well as requiring access to potable drinking water, access to shade and written documentation of all heat-illness prevention procedures.  The regulations were amended in 2010 to include high heat provisions, which require employers to remind employees throughout each shift to drink water when the heat rises above 95 degrees.  If you or someone you love has suffered from a heat-related illness in California, or if a loved one has died after working extreme heat, contact us online or by phone today to learn what rights you may have.

 

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