Worker Safety

Seat Belts Important to Farm Worker Safety

Year-Round Nut Harvest Safety –  Part 2

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Safety should be top priority on farms, especially during harvest. Most farm accidents and fatalities involve machinery and a busy atmosphere like harvest creates many opportunities for injury. However, farm worker safety is important year round. Paul Williams, a senior loss prevention consultant with the State Compensation Insurance Fund, talked to California Ag Today about the topic.

“Some things like wearing seat belts is critical. All the new farm equipment has seat belts, and workers should be encouraged to wear the seat belts because if they are unfortunate enough to get rear ended, that seat belt’s going to keep them in the equipment. You’re not going to get ejected out onto the road,” Williams said.

“A lot of it’s just simple common sense, but the whole idea of doing these before harvest is to remind people, that they are getting ready to enter a busy time of the year. And fatigue is always a factor when you’re working six days a week, 10-12 hours a day. It’s just natural that you get tired, and when you’re tired, you don’t always think clearly,” he said.

“Worker reaction times are slower so we just want to remind people, about safe work practices to follow. And they are good to follow year-round,” Williams noted.

It’s also important to consider safety when riding from one area of the farm to another.

“If there is not a seat and a seat belt, then there should not be a rider. And it does not matter if it is a tractor or bin trailer or a tractor pulling irrigation pipe,” Williams said.

“We’re all basically lazy; none of us like to walk any further than we have to. We don’t see any harm in hitching a ride, but we have a number of fatalities and serious injuries on California farms every year. We have way too many accidents occur where people are passengers on bin trailers and harvest, whether it’s in the vineyards or in the orchards.

“People jumping on a bin trailer where a tractor driver up front may be making a sharp turn to get out of a row. A lot of times there can be pinch points and that’s where people get pinched between that part of the trailer or that bin that they can’t always see. It’s a very dangerous place to be because all it takes is one bump, one hole in the ground or a rough spot to cause someone to be bounced off the tractor.

“The worst injury we see is not so much being bounced off, but just being caught in between row end or the poles at the end of a vineyard,” Williams said.

For more information on safety on the farm, go to:

2017-09-03T00:23:27-07:00August 9th, 2017|

Worker Safety During Nut Harvest – Part 1

Nut Harvest Safety –  Part 1

By Patrick Cavanaugh Farm News Director

Safety is very important, especially when working with heavy machinery. As most farm accidents and fatalities involve machinery, farm safety begins with educating and preparing workers for emergency situations, and making them aware of hazards. California Ag Today interviewed Paul Williams, a senior loss prevention consultant with the State Compensation Insurance Fund, regarding nut harvest safety.

“The hazards are primarily with walnuts and almonds. They tend to stir up more dust in the harvest process,” Williams said. “There are respiratory issues that employees need to be protected from.”

“There’s also a need for hearing protection with any type of farm equipment. A lot of times, you’re sitting there all day at elevated levels of noise – there’s potential for hearing loss. Hearing loss is often overlooked because it’s slow acting, but it can have a huge effect on workers lives down the road,” Williams explained. “It’s important to be aware of it as a factor, and we talking about it as one season, probably not going to be any noticeable … you do that for 20 and 30 seasons, and you’re not able to understand your grandchildren when they talk to you. It’s one of those things that sneaks up on you.”

Williams said there are also a lot of safety issues with farm equipment and transportation. “You’re driving a slow-moving vehicle down a county road at 10 miles an hour, and you’ve got impatient drivers who want to pass you. Many drivers are not paying attention at all and they rear-end your equipment,” Williams said. That happened in Kingsburg a couple weeks ago.

This is always a danger whenever you’re transporting harvesting equipment or any kind of farm equipment on a county road. “It’s always nice if you have a pilot car; it’s always nice if you have a truck behind with their flashers on, trying to control traffic and periodically being a good neighbor and pulling over and letting traffic get by you when that’s possible,” Williams said.

For more information on safety on the farm, go to:

2017-09-02T23:57:46-07:00August 7th, 2017|

Sharing Secrets to a Successful Bowl of Cherries

Weather and Pruning Make Life a Bowl of Cherries

By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor

Clark Goehring, a third generation Kern County farmer, produces cherries and almonds. He summarized his cherry harvested as “good compared to the other years when we have had rain. Some people in our area still had rain during harvest, but we were able to harvest and bring our cherries to market in good condition.”cherry tree

“Of course, it rained a lot this winter and spring, but you do not want rain when cherries are maturing on the tree; they don’t like rain.”

Goehring explained that when it rains beyond the point when cherries start coloring, they split, making them unmarketable. “But while it may take some rained-on cherries off the market, the price of the marketable fruit goes up,” he said, benefiting those growers who had a quality crop, like him.

Goehring’s farm workers train the cherry trees to keep them low—approximately 8 feet tall. “We have tried to have them bush out instead of being more of a central leader. Actually, it’s called Spanish Bush style or, in modified form, KGB.”

Kym Green Bush designed the KGB training method in Australia to use multiple leaders and have them fruit on the leaders themselves. KGB simplifies pruning so less experienced farm workers can learn the skill more easily. The trees are replenished every five years.

Goehring said the method saves money on the farm, cuts labor and increases workers’ safety because it requires no ladders and the harvest is quicker. Harvesting without ladders also gives Goehring an advantage of attracting farm labor over other orchards that require ladders.

“In California, if farm workers have their choice of picking your cherries without using ladders, which is usually piecework, or someone else’s crop with ladders, they are going to want to come to you,” he explained.

2017-08-02T16:14:04-07:00August 2nd, 2017|

Heat Wave Puts Renewed Focus on Worker Safety

Worker Safety and Heat Illness Prevention is Important

By Melissa Moe, Associate Editor

There has been a definite heatwave in the Central Valley, and that means an extra effort should be in place to protect farm workers from heat illness. Darren Stevens is an associate safety engineer with Cal/OSHA Consultation. He explained to California Ag Today the areas where growers need to comply to ensure that all workers make it home safely.

“The big things to remember is that the employers need to have written policies and procedures that address the specific requirements provided for water, shade, written procedures, emergency procedures and training. Those are the real keys,” Stevens said.

With temperatures in the triple digits, heat illness can be a very real threat. It is important to know the signs and have a plan in place to prevent overexposure to heat. There are regulations in place to protect worker wellness, with guidelines that producers must follow to guarantee their safety.

“The minimum temperature for shade is 80 degrees, but shade also needs to be available below 80 degrees if it’s requested by the employees. Water has to be available at all times. Really, we want to make sure that the shade and the water is available at all times, primarily just because of the heatwave. Or if they’re coming from another area, they’re not used to this type of weather. We need to have those precautions in place,” Stevens said.

For more information about heat safety, visit

2017-06-26T15:45:17-07:00June 26th, 2017|

Risk & Safety Manager Talks Heat Illness

Preventing Farm Worker Heat Illness

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Part of a Series

Larry Williams, Executive Risk and Safety Manager for the Hall Companies.

With temperatures heating up throughout the San Joaquin Valley, it’s extremely important that farm workers know how to prevent heat illness. Larry Williams is CEO of the Hall Companies, among the largest Ag labor contractors in this state. Williams is also the Executive Risk and Safety Manager for the company. They take workers’ safety in the field very seriously.

“The heat illness is a big thing for us, because we employ over 25,000 employees throughout the state of California. We’re in the ag industry, so heat is a big thing, especially coming up in the summer time for us,” Williams said.

Williams told California Ag Today how they protect workers across the state.

“We provide shade trailers for 100 percent of our people. In addition to the shade trailers, if needed, we have canopies, [and] umbrellas where needed for our individual irrigators or others. We try to make sure we’re ahead of the game,” Williams said.

Regulations state that shade must be available to all workers when temperatures reach 80 degrees.

“Yes, we have to have shade available, and every site that we pull up to, we automatically bring shade, whether it’s 60 degrees, or 100 degrees,” Williams explained.

“And of course, plenty of water must be available for all workers,” he said.

2017-06-21T15:44:21-07:00June 21st, 2017|

Keeping Workers Safe from Heat Illness

How Farmers Prevent Heat Illness

Part of a Series

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

With the rising temperatures, farmers must ensure the safety of their workers to prevent heat illness and ensure that everyone gets home safely. California Ag Today spoke with Daniel Jackson, of Family Tree Farms, about the rising temperatures and worker safety.

“It’s amazing how you see canopies up all over,” Jackson said. “As you drive by, you’ll see the canopies that are up, providing shade. The water sources are close. As far as sanitary goes, most farmers now are — especially the larger ones — under global good agricultural practices (GAP) certifications. We’re not only required to have excellent bathrooms and wash station in place. it, but it’s also the right thing. … It helps to protect our workers, keep them safe and also provide a safe, sanitary food source for the public.”

Family Tree Farms has a proactive approach on keeping their workers safe. “We’re taking care of the workers by giving them their breaks and doing everything that we need to ensure that they’re healthy and that they’re able to make it through the day,” Jackson said.

“That takes great supervision. We have a great team. We have about eight people that work for us, that are going around checking people, making sure that they’re safe,” he said.

“We also visit the workers in the field. I think the farmer needs to be there in the flesh from time to time, making sure everybody’s healthy. So far, it’s been fine this year, but as the heat goes up, we’re going to have to take more precautions,” Jackson said.

2017-06-23T17:37:08-07:00June 14th, 2017|

Developing On-Site Rescue Plans for Worker Safety

Western Agricultural Processors Association Seeks to Improve Worker Safety

By Melissa Moe, Associate Editor

Agricultural work can be very dangerous when working in confined spaces. If a worker was to receive an injury, such as a heart attack or even just a sprained ankle while down in a pit, they would be unable to climb a ladder to safety. It is important for workers to be aware of these dangers and have a plan to rescue others in times of emergency.

Roger Isom is the president and CEO of the Western Agricultural Processors Association, representing California’s almond hullers and cotton ginners. We spoke with Isom about the dangers of working in confined spaces, and what producers can do to keep workers safe.

“Confined spaces are basically just an area you’re not normally working in, where if something happened, it would be very difficult to get you out of that hole, or out of that silo, or out of that baghouse. It’s a permanent required confined space, difficult to get in and out of, like a pit,” said Isom.

In an ongoing effort to increase safety awareness, the Western Agricultural Processors Association is conducting specialized confined spaces training workshops.

“The training that’s going on involves recognizing when and where you have confined spaces, what kind of safety plan you need to have in place, and what kind of rescue plan you need to have in place, so in the event someone does get hurt or has an illness, you can rescue them,” he said.

Most confined spaced accidents are completely preventable and involve workers who do not have a well thought out, organized plan. It is important to have these plans in place so that everyone returns home to their families at the end of the day.

“Nine times out of ten, a confined space accident is where somebody goes in to rescue the person that’s down. Maybe you’ve got a gas leak. You see the guy laying down in the pit as you walk by and think, “Oh my gosh, I gotta go down there and get him.” Then you’re overcome. Then the next guy comes along and he’s overcome by the gas,” Isom said.

“This is why companies need a rescue plan,” he explained.

2017-05-22T15:14:29-07:00May 22nd, 2017|

Heat Illness Prevention for Workers

Training is Key to Heat Illness Prevention

(Part One of a Series)

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Temperatures heating up throughout Central California are a reminder of the critical importance of heat illness prevention for farm employees working in the luminous fields.

Scott Peters farms peaches and nectarines in the Reedley and Dinuba areas of Fresno County. He carefully watches his workers. “During the high heat periods, we have to be very careful so the guys don’t get heat illness, heat stroke types of symptoms. So we have shade and cold water readily available. We’re working on portable toilets now that have covers over them so they’re not as warm, for summer use.”

Scott Peters

Peters maintains that prevention is always the best way to keep workers safe. “It comes down to regular training,” he said.

“We also conduct heat illness training with all the field workers. We go over proper clothing light-colored clothing, cool clothing, hats, bandanas and sunscreento help prevent issues,” Peters said. “If the field worker is safe and happy, he does a better job. It’s better performance and, all the way around, everybody benefits.”

And Cal/OSHA rules require certain provisions to ensure workers’ safety as the days warm up. “We have postings,” Peters said. “Our crew bosses have binders with all the heat illness information, emergency contact numbers – both company and medical – such as 911 and the local hospital. [These postings] are with them in their vans and [affixed] to our restroom units in the field.”

2017-05-10T22:35:56-07:00May 5th, 2017|

Indoor Heat Regs: A Solution to a Problem?

New Regs Target Indoor Heat Illness Prevention

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Many agricultural organizations have submitted written comments opposing Cal-OSHA’s proposed heat illness prevention in indoor places of employment. California has long had an outdoor heat illness regulation, but now an indoor regulation is a possibility. Roger Isom, President and CEO of the Western Agricultural Processors Association – which includes California’s nut processors, cotton gins and other industries – spoke to California Ag Today about the issue.

“This is a solution looking for a problem,” Isom said. “There’s no problem here. The incidents that drove the legislation came out of the Riverside-Ontario, area where you had warehouses that don’t have air conditioning. Most of the time, the temperature in that area is in the 70s and 80s, occasionally in the 90s. Every once in a while they’ll get that rare heat wave that gets up to 100, and if you’re not used to it, yeah, you’re going to have a problem.”

Because Central Valley agriculture is used to the higher heat levels, the buildings are designed differently for the workers, Isom explained. “They’re adequately ventilated. The air moves through it, and we’re used to that heat, so it’s not what we’re talking about in the San Joaquin Valley. Why throw everybody under the bus, so to speak? Makes no sense in this case. It really should be a targeted regulation. The legislature’s allowed for that. Cal-OSHA just need to be directed,” Isom said.

Nearly all the farm buildings have big open doors and are well ventilated with fans and some portable evaporative coolers. Workers who come out of the field where it’s 105 degrees and then walk into those buildings find it quite comfortable.

“It’s going to not make a lot of sense that if we’re telling the guys that are working out on the gin yard to come into the gin for shade if you’re feeling hot or you’re feeling ill. Now you’re subject to another rule regarding higher heat in the building that might be contrary to what you’re doing. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Isom said.

2021-05-12T11:05:17-07:00April 21st, 2017|

Postcard Campaign to Stop Additional Pesticide Regulations Near Schools

Call to Growers: Join Postcard Campaign to Stop Additional Pesticide Regulations Near Schools before Friday, Dec. 9


By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster


Proposed DPR Regulations

“The proposed California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) further restricting growers from applying crop protection products near schools is unnecessary,” noted Kelly Covello, president of the Almond Alliance of California, which advocates and lobbies for the almond industry.

“Basically, this proposed rule is going to add a layer of unnecessary regulation. It proposes restricting pesticide applications within a quarter mile of schools and daycare centers between Mondays and Fridays, 6am to 6pm,” said Covello. She noted there are already regulations in place to protect both the community and the applicator.

Likewise, Colleen Cecil, executive director, Butte County Farm Bureau, said, “We’re very confident in the regulation that currently exists and the responsibility that landowners take when it comes to spraying anywhere. There are rules in place and these rules work.”

“The environmental community has done a bang-em-up job at fear-mongering, period. They believe they can take pictures of kids next to fields and make the farmer the bad guy. Nothing can be further from the truth,” Cecil said.

“Nothing is more important than the health and safety of people,” noted Ceil. “As stewards of the land, farmers already do everything in their power to mitigate risks involved in agriculture and the application of pesticide is no exception.”  Cecil added, “The puzzling part of the proposed regulation is that DPR have stated themselves that they were ‘unable to quantify the benefits’ and that ‘any health benefits of the prohibitions are unknown.'”



Postcard campaign to stop additional pesticide regulation near schools dpr

Postcard campaign to stop additional pesticide regulation near schools

Call for Growers to Take Action

“We have joined California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) and other organizations that are working on this issue,” said Covello. “One of the main calls to action for grower engagement with DPR is CFBF’s postcard campaign. If you would like postcards to share with your grower network, please email or simply print from the Postcard PDF document and mail directly to DPR (contact information is on the last page of the PDF document).   A high volume of input will be critical.

Growers can also sign and share CFBF’s petition. Farm Bureau will deliver the petitions to DPR before the comment period closes on December 9.

“This [proposed regulation] really is unnecessary,” said Covello. “There is no science. There is no injury or illness that has sparked the need for new regulations. We are really hoping we can get our growers engaged by sending in a postcard or sending in comments. Again, growers can contact the Almond Alliance by email at and by phone at (209) 300-7140.

“We would be happy to get you a postcard,” Covello said. “We can also email it to anyone. So please help us in this fight to stop unnecessary regulation.”

Almond Alliance of California

Butte County Farm Bureau

California Department of Pesticide Regulation

California Farm Bureau Federation

2021-05-12T11:05:43-07:00December 5th, 2016|
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