Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Third Possible Heat-Related Death In California

Cal/OSHA Reporter reveals that Cal/OSHA is in the process of investigating heat related workplace deaths.
In the wake of two investigations begun on suspected heat-illness-related deaths in California's sizzling Central Valley, Cal-OSHA Reporter has learned that the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) has begun an investigation in Sonoma County following the death of a pizza delivery driver yesterday.

DOSH reports that a 67-year-old employee of MJ's Pizza, Inc., of Santa Rosa (a Domino's franchise), was reported late to a delivery and was found in his vehicle suffering from heat stroke by passersby in another area of the city late Monday afternoon. The franchise was informed of his death about 8:30 p.m. July 24. His identify has not been made available yet.

Sonoma County, like much of the rest of the state, has been sweltering in the extended heat wave, and has seen triple-digit temperatures for several days.

The two other possible heat-related deaths occurred in Bakersfield and Fresno July 19 and 20, respectively. In Bakersfield, 38-year-old Joaquin Ramirez, an employee of Raul Hidalgo Lawn Services died after only three days on the job. He reportedly was loading grass clippings onto a truck when he collapsed.

The Fresno incident took the life of 49-year-old Benadino Gomez, who worked for Valley Pool and Plastering. He died the night of July 20 while working at a site in Kerman. He had been laboring in 109ยบ F temperatures.
California recently passed a workplace standard to prevent heat-related illnesses in response to thirteen heat-related deaths in the state last summer.

The standard requires employers to provide workers access to drinking water of at least one quart per hour for the entire shift. It also requires employers to provide shade for employees who are either suffering from heat illness or who need a "preventive recovery period." Non-agriculture industries are allowed to provide alternative cooling methods, such as misting machines. The standard also requires workers to be trained on the risk factors for heat illness, how to avoid it, the employer's procedures for complying with the standard and emergency procedures if an employee becomes ill.

The standard came under criticism for leaving it up to workers to complain about their symptoms, which they may not do, fearing retaliation or a lower pay if, for example, they're being paid by the amount of fruit picked.