It’s extremely important for farm employees to know how to prevent heat illness. Larry Williams is the CEO of the EE Hall Company among the largest ag labor contractors in the state. Williams is also the executive risk and safety manager for the company and they take worker’s safety in the field very seriously.
“Heat illness is a big thing for us because we employ over 25,000 employees throughout the state of California. And we’re in the ag industry and we’re in all commodities. So heat is a big thing, especially coming up in the summertime for us.”
Williams describes how they get it done across the state, and the first thing they provide is shade trailers for 100% of their employees.
“In addition to the shade trailers, if needed, we have canopy umbrellas where needed for our individual irrigators, and we try to make sure we’re ahead of the game”
State regulations say that shade must be available to all workers. When temperatures reach 80 degrees,
“Yes, we have to have shade available but every site that we pull up to, we automatically bring shape whether it’s 60 degrees, a hundred degrees shades already there and available.”
And of course, plenty of water must be available for all field employees. Additionally, when temperatures reach 95 degrees or above, the employer shall ensure that employees take a minimum 10 minute preventative cooldown rest period, every two hours.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On April 12, a coalition of agricultural organizations will hold two Heat Illness Prevention Sessions in Easton.
Manuel Cunha, Jr., President of Nisei Farmers League, said, “We appreciate the staff and the efforts of the Department of Industrial Relations, Cal/OSHA Consultation with their presentation of the safety message: WATER, REST, SHADE.”
Cunha continued, “the efforts by all our agricultural partners, as well as Cal/OSHA is to educate employers and supervisors about the dangers of working in the heat. We have held many educational sessions, sent out publications, had media events and continue to have ongoing outreach efforts throughout the state. Education is the key to reducing the number of heat illnesses that we see in our fields.”
Attend one of the sessions on April 12 for the latest documents outlining high heat procedures, including additional steps to be taken to ensure our employees’ safety.
Date: Friday, April 12, 2019
Time: Session One in Spanish 10:00 a.m. to noon. Session Two in English 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Place: C.P.D.E.S. Portuguese Hall, 172 W Jefferson Avenue, Easton.
There is no cost for attending these training sessions.
We want to thank our agricultural partners listed below: Nisei Farmers League, Fresno County Farm Bureau, Allied Grape Growers, California Fresh Fruit Association, African America Farmers of Calif., American Pistachio Growers, California Apple Commission, California Blueberry Commission California Olive Growers Council and Sun-Maid Growers of California.
When temperatures are heating up, it’s important that growers are keeping farm employees safe to prevent exhaustion and heat-related illnesses and to ensure that their employees go home to their families at the end of the day.
On an average day, temperatures in fields can range from eight to 10 degrees hotter than the average temperature in the area.
“We try always to have a regular tailgate meeting to remind all of our farm employees about the hazards of working when temperatures are more than 80 degrees,” said Ron Samuelson, a Fresno County grower who produces almonds and cherries. “We educate our employees about the importance of drinking water, the emergency procedures if needed. And for increased prevention, we are in constant contact with the workers throughout the day.”
Samuelson said that shade is essential once temperatures reach around 80 degrees and they make sure there is adequate shade in the morning if temperatures are going to get to that high.
“If field employees are in an almond orchard where there are mature trees, there is adequate \shade for them to sit and rest under a tree to cool down,” Samuelson explained. “And when the temperature begins to reach 100 degrees, it’s not uncommon for work to stop to give employees a break from the heat.”
“If temperatures go over 95 degrees, we employ other procedures. The first thing we would do is to talk to the guys to get their input as to what’s their thoughts on how soon they want to stop working for the day.”
“A lot of times, we’ll start a little bit earlier and knock off earlier. Then we take breaks more often as well. We try to maintain that, encourage them to drink at least a quart per hour throughout the day. We make sure they let us know if the water jugs are down to a gallon are less. That way we can get them refilled right away.”
Employee safety is paramount because it would be impossible for farmers to farm without them.
“So it’s essential to help them get through the day and avoid heat stress. At the end of the day, our employees matter most,” Samuelson said.
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.
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.
Extreme Heat Wave Expected to Continue Throughout this Week
With really high temperatures throughout the Central Coast, Cal/OSHA will probably focus enforcement in coming days in these areas. Please remember the key points of compliance with the Heat Illness Prevention Standard:
* Water — 1 quart per worker per hour, with a plan for replenishment throughout the work shift
* Shade — enough for 25% of the crew working at the location; use of natural shade is acceptable if no shadow is cast; air-conditioned vehicles are acceptable; provided at all times when temperature exceeds 85 degrees
* Rest — allow workers to rest in shade if they feel the need for no less than 5 minutes
* Training — workers & supervisors must be trained about heat illness and emergency response procedures before being exposed to heat
* High-Heat Procedures — ensure effective communications in case of emergency; observe employees carefully for signs of heat illness; remind employees to drink water throughout the shift; closely supervise un-acclimatized employees for first 14 days of exposure to high heat