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Farm workers exposed to workplace illness in hot summer months

The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported that settlements were reached in two lawsuits that farm workers filed against the agency in 2009 and 2012. Cal/OSHA was accused of failing to monitor farm owners' compliance with safety regulations, thereby leaving farm workers extremely vulnerable. Going forward, Cal/OSHA will consistently carry out effective and timely inspections of farms on which workers are exposed to outdoor conditions that may pose workplace illness hazards.

Workers are especially vulnerable during the hot months between June and August. This is also the time when many crops are harvested, exposing farm workers to excessive heat for many hours each day. It was reported that one in four of the approximate 650,000 workers on about 35,000 California farms are exposed to potential heat illness due to safety violations.

Workers are concerned about their safety, as heat illness could be fatal. It was reported that at least three workers' deaths have been linked to heat illness over the past decade. Workers believe that compliance with safety measures will protect them from the risks of heat illness and potential death.

California farm workers have the right to safe workplace environments and must not be expected to work in conditions that may lead to workplace illness. Those who have been victims of heat exhaustion may pursue compensation for medical expenses and lost wages by filing workers' compensation benefit claims. The families of workers who have died from heat illness may seek death benefits that will cover end-of-life expenses, along with financial packages based on the deceased workers' average wages.

Source: yourcentralvalley.com, "Work Conditions to Improve for Farm Workers", June 11, 2015

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