Monday, July 25, 2005

Heat Kills

Heat kills.

Four workers in the California's Central Valley have died this summer of heat related illness prompting United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez to ask Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to push for emergency regulations.

Meanwhile, CalOSHA is pushing for an emergency standard that would require employers to provide relief from the sun for their employees. The emergency standard could take effect by mid-August, but would only be in effect for 120 days. Legislators have also introduced a bill (AB805)mandating heat protections, but that would take longer than the emergency CalOSHA regulations.
"What you have here is a certain callousness, a certain lack of caring," UFW spokesman Marc Grossman said. "The lives of farmworkers don't seem be worth very much to many growers and labor contractors."

Salud Zamudio Rodriguez, 42, died July 13 after picking bell peppers in a field near Arvin, south of Bakersfield. Fryer said Cal-OSHA also is investigating the July 15 death of a melon farmworker in Fresno County, Tuesday's death of a Fresno construction worker and Wednesday's death of a Kern County vineyard worker.

Fryer said Cal-OSHA is acting in direct response to "the fact that we've had four heat-related deaths in the last nine days," and that the regulations would apply to workers in any outdoor occupation.
The CA winegrowers assoication is opposing HB 805 apparently because the bill is not sufficiently "science based" and doesn't provide employers enough flexibility.

After reading the bill, I find it a bit hard to see what they're talking about. The bill just requires that the employer "Identify and evaluate workplace hazards associated with heat illness," take steps to prevent it, provide medical treatment and train workers.

According to Len Welsh, acting CalOSHA chief, the CalOSHA standard will provide shade and cool drinking water during hot weather and training.

(A North Carolina farm worker also died of the heat earlier this week.)

CalOSHA provides heat illness realted information here.

OSHA has no heat standard, but has a web page here, including some nifty Heat Stress Card. OSHA Publication 3154 (2002), 23 KB Heat Stress Cards, also in Spanish, that include information on heat stress and list symptoms of heat-related illnesses and first aid techniques.