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California to focus safety inspections on agricultural structures

According to the nonprofit Farmworker Justice, the agriculture industry is extremely hazardous for its workers, who are routinely exposed to many dangers that could be prevented. The organization lists the following types of agricultural employee hazards and potential work-related injuries and diseases:

  • Pesticide exposure that can cause both immediate and long-term harm, including cancer, birth defects, fertility problems and fatality
  • Heat stress that can cause serious illness, impairment and potentially death
  • Lack of enough safe drinking water
  • Inadequate toileting facilities, including hand-washing equipment
  • Physical injuries from repetitive motions like bending, stooping, lifting and cutting
  • Dangerous farm equipment
  • Falls that can cause serious disability and even death

While federal and California laws provide safety regulation for some of these hazards, employer compliance is not always adequate to prevent injury and death.

Cal/OSHA to concentrate inspections on agricultural fixed sites

Within the California Department of Industrial Relations, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health is charged with protecting workers from hazards in the workplace. The agency is popularly known as Cal/OSHA and according to the California Farm Bureau Federation, Cal/OSHA had had "considerable success" in making progress in heat-caused illness prevention in the agriculture industry over the past year.

Going forward into 2013, Cal/OSHA plans to focus its health and safety inspections on so-called "fixed sites" in agriculture like greenhouses, sheds, dairies and similar structures that can harbor extreme heat and poor ventilation. The agency will again look at health problems caused by heat, but it will also expand its look to other problems found at agricultural fixed sites.

The agency has also arranged for employer and employee training in heat safety.

The California Farm Bureau Federation interviewed Ellen Widess, the head of Cal/OSHA, who said that the agency is prepared to pursue both civil and criminal punishment of employers who violate health and safety rules.

Talk to a workers' compensation lawyer about agricultural work injury claims

California agricultural employers have the legal duty to provide a safe workplace and they are also required to provide workers' compensation coverage, more widely than farming employers in most other states. If you are injured in your work in California agriculture, seek medical attention and speak with an experienced California workers' compensation attorney about filing your workers' comp claim and whether any other legal remedies may be available to you.

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