Don’t Be Fooled, High Heat Will Return

Farm Employees Must Be Protected During High Temps

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The cool and rainy weather will eventually turn to higher temperature days, and when high heat returns to the Central Valley, it’s essential that farm employees are getting enough water, rest, and shade. Manuel Cunha, the President of the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno told California Ag Today that during hot days, we’ve got to protect employees.

“Training is the first important step to prevent heat illness,” Cunha said. “All employees and supervisors must know about heat illness prevention.”

Water is the next important step in preventing heat stress.

“Employers or supervisors must provide enough fresh water so that each employee can drink at least one quart per hour—or four 8 ounces glasses per hour—and encourage them to do so,” Cunha said.

Manuel Cunha, President of the Nisei Farmers League, Fresno

Shade is the next critical step to prevent heat illness.

“Employees should have access to shade, and they should be encouraged to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least 5 minutes,” Cunha explained. “And employees should not wait until they feel sick to cool down.”

Finally, all ag employers must develop and implement written procedures for complying with the Cal/OSHA Heat Illness Prevention Standard.

 Temperature Triggers

Shade shall be present when the temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The employer must maintain one or more areas with shade at all times while employees are present that are either open to the air or provided with ventilation or cooling.

The amount of shade present shall be at least enough to accommodate the number of employees on recovery or rest periods so that they can sit in a healthy posture fully in the shade without having to be in physical contact with each other.

The amount of shade present during meal periods shall be at least enough to accommodate the number of employees on the meal period who remain onsite.

The high-heat hazard temperature is 95 degrees or higher. This is when the employees must take a ten-minute preventative cool-down rest period every two hours. Often, farm operations will cease for the day and restart in the morning.

“Farmers, supervisors, packinghouses, farm labor contractors, all of these folks should have their Heat Action Plan ready, and all employers should be aware of it,” Cunha said. “They have to be ready to go, and that crew bosses, managers, foremen are making sure that the workers are getting shade and drinking plenty of water.”

If farm operations need to change their time schedules to accommodate the high temperatures, they need to implement that, as well as making sure that the workers take their proper breaks, and they have a meal.

“Lunchtime is very important for the workers to be nourished and strong,” Cunha said.

When employees are acclimating to the higher temperatures, a buddy system is essential.

“You want to make sure somebody isn’t sweating a lot or beginning to feel nauseated. As workers, they need to be looking out for each other as well. You cannot always depend on the crew boss seeing a problem,” Cunha explained.

Emergency Contacts

In some places, cell phones don’t work, so workers may have to have a two-way radio. Make sure there is a way to call 911 during an emergency. Make sure you have maps posted to where the employees are working, and all the workers know where they’re at.

“If something goes down, they need to call 911, the worker or crew boss needs to say where they’re at—the address, the location, the cross streets,” Cunha stressed.

“The location should be posted on a clipboard to make sure that you have the information there for those employees,” Cunha continued. “That’s very important, to know the procedures.”

“We want all employees to go home safe to their families every night. So farming operations must have heat illness prevention plans in place,” Cunha said.

Farm operations should be sure that a supervisor is in place in all fieldwork and that supervisor must have first aid and CPR training. And if the supervisor leaves the crew for any reason, they must make sure someone is in charge.

First aid and CPR are vital with our farm crews working in the fields or even in the construction industry. Farm labor contractors must be sure that field supervisors are licensed for first aid and CPR.

Farm Safety is Critically Important

Nut Harvest Safety – Part 3

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Farm safety is extremely important. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that the farming industry saw about 600 fatalities across the country last year. More than 200 laborers are injured in the U.S. on a daily basis. Many of these injuries result in permanent disability.

Paul Williams

Safety is not just important on the road; electrical safety is also a hot topic, noted Paul Williams, a senior loss prevention consultant for State Compensation Insurance Fund.

“We always talk about lock-out, tag-out, chocking and blocking tires, and before you make any repairs, making sure that equipment is shut off, and then doing repairs in the field,” he said.

Yet, many people are lost every year at harvest when they decide to make repairs in the field with just a quick adjustment.

“Sometimes people are in a hurry, they’re impatient, they’re tired, maybe fatigue sets in there; too easy to get caught in moving parts,” Williams said.

Although many ranchers have mechanics they go to, some choose to ‘fix’ the problem themselves.

“It’s the seasonal guys, the guys that aren’t trained, they’re trying to do good work but they try to do things they’re not trained to do. … This is why many ranchers stress that employees not be afraid to ask for help,” Williams said.

For more information on safety on the farm, go to: http://www.agsafe.org/

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: http://www.agsafe.org/