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.

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Overtime Bill AB 1066 Heads to Governor’s Desk

California Assembly Sends AB 1066 Overtime Bill to Governor

By Patrick Cavanaugh Farm News Director

 

The California Assembly voted 44 to 32, yesterday, August 29, in favor of a bill that would make California the first in the country to give farmworkers overtime pay after working 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week instead of current law that mandates agriculture workers earn overtime after 10 hours per day or 60 hours per week.

 

CFFA Logo

Because farmworkers are unable to work some days due to weather or harvest schedules, they have historically preferred to work as many hours as possible on any given day. Now farmers may be forced to restrict employees from working more than 8 hours per day to avoid the costly overtime payroll, which would severely hurt their financial bottom line.

 

The bill, which has already cleared the State Senate, now moves on to Governor Jerry Brown, who has until September 31st to sign or veto the bill.

 

George Radanovich, president of the Fresno-based California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) that represents many farmers who rely on hand labor, stated, “It’s a clear example of people who live on black top and cement and who never talk to people in the vineyards or in the fields. They think they are helping the farmworker, and they are not. They’re making it harder for the farmworker and for the farmer,” said Radanovich.

 

Roger Isom, president of the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) and the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association (CCGGA), said AB 1066 just places additional burdens on the farmer. “When you combine this Ag overtime legislation with the minimum wage increase and all of the other labor issues—the workers comp costs that are imposed on growers—it makes us noncompetitive,” Isom said. “On top of that you add the regulatory costs from the different issues like the truck rule; we can’t compete.”

WAPA-Logo

 

“There isn’t anybody out there who wouldn’t want to pay the workers more than what they’re getting today, or even that overtime,” said Isom. “But consider that California is one of only 5 states that even pays overtime, and none of them pay it after only 10 hours. We already had the most stringent overtime regulations for farmworkers in the country before it was ever adopted. Now, we’ve made it worse; we are going to have the highest minimum wage of any farm state out there, so how do we compete?”

 

CCGGA logo

Isom commented, “This last week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was actually calling Assembly members in the State, urging them to support this bill. We were outraged,” Isom said. “When he was Governor of the State of Iowa, his own state had the lowest Ag wages and has no Ag overtime. The majority of our states, 45 states, have no overtime. You could work 16 hours, 20 hours, and not be paid any overtime.”

 

Isom noted that supporters of AB 1066 are very shortsighted. He predicts the law will only reduce the number of available working hours available for farm employees and thus decrease their earnings. Isom hopes Governor Brown will see this bill as an added negative impact tied to the recently passed increases to California’s minimum wage.

 

Agriculture leaders are calling for all concerned to put pressure on Governor Brown to veto AB 1066 by Emailing or phoning constantly.

Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160

email: governor@governor.ca.gov


(Featured photo: Roger Isom, president of Western Ag Processors Association and the California Cotton Ginners Association)

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Farmers Willing to Adapt

Farmers Willing to Adapt Farming Practices for Regulators

By Laurie Greene, Editor

 

With increased scrutiny of the agriculture industry’s use of resources, growers must be proactive about their farming practices, and according to Roger Isom, president and ceo of Western Agricultural Processors Association, farmers are willing to adapt.

Isom noted how receptive growers are to improving their farming techniques. “One of the best examples I have for conservation management practices addresses air quality. Air quality regulators say we’ve got to put water on the back of tillage disks to suppress dust and to schedule no-farming days,” he said. “Wait a minute,” he added, “let’s get in a room and talk about what you want to do! You want to lower emissions? Well, farmers can combine practices and thereby lower emissions and save fuel and labor. And, we’ll do it!”

Isom said farmers appreciate incentive programs. “If I can get some money to help pay for it,” said Isom, “I’ll do it much sooner. There is nobody out there who doesn’t want a new tractor or truck to meet the mandated specifications; but if you provide some help, they will do it much sooner.”

“Growers and consumers each want the same things—a healthy environment and good produce,” he said. “You just have to sit down together and find solutions. The last thing we want is a food recall. Again, if we sit down in a room with scientists and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and develop agricultural guidance specific to each crop, farmers will be more amenable to adapt recommendations into practice,” Isom said.

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CCGGA and WAPA Not Happy with Abrupt Ending of Water Negotiations

What Happened is Unknown, But Ending Water Negotiations In a Year Like This is Unconscionable

 

On Friday, California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations (CCGGA)/Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) President /CEO Roger Isom reacted to the withdrawal of water negotiations on federal drought legislation by stating:

Roger A. Isom, CCGGA/WAPA President/CEO
Roger A. Isom, CCGGA/WAPA President/CEO

It is unconscionable to walk away from talks at this point in time. In a year where hundreds of thousands of acres of productive farmland received zero surface water, this delay is unacceptable. Thousands of acres lay fallow and productive orchards were ripped out – this is unacceptable.

The jobs that are associated with this acreage go far beyond the individual farmer and his family. It affects farm workers and their families, the fuel delivery personnel and their families, the custom harvesters and their families, the bankers and their families, the insurance companies and their families, the equipment dealers and their families. The list goes on and one thing remains the same. The lack of water is devastating. There are cities in the San Joaquin Valley that are without water for even the basic necessities. This is not a time when politics should come before the needs of the people.

While we applaud the bipartisanship that went into the serious negotiations that were undertaken, the fact remains that there will be no legislation this year. Despite assurances that this will be taken up early in the next session it is simply too late. Another planting season will have gone by. Without a miracle winter, more acreage will be removed. Consequently, more farmworkers will be laid off or simply not hired. There will be even less work for the fuel suppliers, harvesters, banks, chemical supply companies, equipment dealers, and others that rely upon a viable agricultural industry.

We don’t know what happened or why the negotiations were discontinued, but it doesn’t matter. Simply put, something has to be done to provide more water at these critical times. Farmers have done their part by investing billions converting irrigation systems to automated, high-efficiency, low water use systems, such as buried drip on cotton. It’s time for Congress to do theirs.“

The California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations are trade organizations representing cotton growers and cotton gins throughout California. The Western Agricultural Processors Association is a trade organization representing tree nut hullers and processors of almonds, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. All three organizations are operated and managed in the same offices in Fresno, California.

 

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