Farmers Doing What They Can—No COVID-19 Penalty Needed

Farmers Doing What They Can—No COVID-19 Penalty Needed

July 3, 2020

Farmers Pushing Back on Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Penalty


By Patrick Cavanaugh with AgInformation Network 

Pushing back on Cal/OSHA that want to press criminal charges of ag employers do not protect their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roger Isom is president and CEO of the Western Agricultural Processors Association, based in Fresno. It's a trade association representing tree nut processors. He said, ag employers are trying very hard to protect their employees and don't need a threat from Cal/OSHA.

“We want to provide a safe workplace,” said Isom. “You have to, I mean, this is a serious virus and can spread easily. So you've got to be careful about it. The problem we see is if you're grossly negligent, yes, that's an issue. But what we've seen historically is that Cal/ OSHA could cite you for checking your employees every day, but you didn't document that you did. Why is that a criminal penalty,” noted Isom.

“We checked our employees and the workers say that we did it, but we don't have documentation of it. And so now Cal/OSHA wants to make this a criminal penalty. No, that's, that's not acceptable,” Isom said.

“My guess is that there certainly is pressure on the legislature to do something. If they eliminate that criminal element and make it a standard penalty that we see typical Cal/OSHA requirements, it's going to be enforceable.

“People are going to follow it,” said Isom. “Again, we need to do this. We don't need Cal/OSHA to tell us to do this. We have to do this. So we don't think it's necessary for the criminal element at all,” said Isom.