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.