Cal-OSHA Will Attend Meetings Aimed at Preventing Fresno California Valley Workers’ Heat Illness This Summer.

It may be weeks before Valley temperatures begin to climb, but farmers and farm-labor contractors are getting ready for a series of seminars aimed at protecting workers from heat illness. On Tuesday, a coalition of farming groups will begin a series of statewide training workshops. The goal is to remind agriculture employers about the dangers of working in the heat and how to comply with California’s 2005 heat-illness prevention law.

The first meeting, at the C.P.D.E.S. Hall, 172 W. Jefferson Ave. in Easton, is expected to draw several hundred growers, contractors and supervisors. Other meetings are scheduled throughout the state in March, April and May. Representatives of the California Department of Industrial Relations, Cal/OSHA will also be at the meetings to answer any questions.

California’s heat-illness prevention law is the nation’s most comprehensive law designed to protect outdoor workers from heat illness. It was passed after 12 outdoor workers died as a result of working in extreme heat. Since then, Cal/OSHA has stepped up inspections and enforcement.

The agriculture industry has also responded by working to educate employers about the law.

Organizers say the meetings are an important way to keep people up to date on any changes in the regulations or technology that has been developed. Last year, nearly 1,600 growers, farm-labor contractors and supervisors attended the series of meetings.

As part of the law, employers must provide plenty of cool water; ready access to shade; full and complete training; and written procedures identifying the company’s heat-illness prevention program.

Many employers provide portable shade structures that they move from field to field. But a few contractors have created custom-built shade trailers.

Fresno County farm-labor contractor Earl Hall will be at Tuesday’s meeting demonstrating a trailer he built for his company.

Hall has more than 100 trailers that include water, shade, a resting place and bathrooms. Each trailer cost about $1,200 to build, but it’s an expense Hall doesn’t mind.

“We could do just the minimum, but that is not how I run my company,” Hall said. “My business is labor, and I have to take care of my workers, because if I don’t, I don’t have a company.”

The Nisei Farmers League, California Grape and Tree Fruit League, California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations, Western Agricultural Processors Association, Fresno County Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations are sponsoring the series of seminars

Manuel Cunha, president of the Nisei Farmers League, said the Igloo company also will be on hand to show a new shade structure it has developed. The structure has side curtains that can be pulled down for more shade.

The side of the curtain also has a place where the employers can write down the location of the field, an important detail in the event emergency personnel are needed.

Courtesy of the Fresno BeeRobert Rodriguez @ (559) 441-6327.

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OSHA, NIOSH Team Up Together On New Respiratory Guidance Documents

OSHA and NIOSH have created two guidance documents, one for workers and one for employers, showing how the use of spirometry testing will reduce and prevent workers’ exposure to respiratory hazards. This is a common pulmonary function test that measures how well a person moves air in and out of the lungs.

Inhaling some types of dusts, gases, or other air contaminants can damage lungs. The spirometry test may detect breathing problems or significant changes in a worker’s lung function at an early stage; the documents are meant to help employers identify and eliminate hazardous exposures and thus reduce the likelihood of lung disease.

The new OSHA/NIOSH-produced Info sheet for employers clarifies what spirometry is, when it is needed, and critical elements employers can use to evaluate the quality of spirometry services provided to their workers. The second document, OSHA-NIOSH Worker Info, explains to workers the importance of taking a spirometry test, what to do during the test, and their right to receive an explanation and copy of test results.

“Spirometry is the best available test for early detection of decreasing or abnormal lung function,” said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. “Our joint effort with NIOSH in developing these products will help broaden outreach and enhance knowledge of preventive measures aimed at protecting worker health and safety.” NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard said spirometry tests “are a vital component of health and safety programs in workplaces where workers may be exposed to hazardous airborne contaminants.”

OSHA recommends spirometry testing for workers exposed to diacetyl and diacetyl substitutes. The agency’s recent Safety and Health Information Bulletin, Occupational Exposure to Flavoring Substances: Health Effects and Hazard Controls, and a companion Worker Alert on Diacetyl and Substitutes offer assistance to employers.

PETA Petitions OSHA for Elephant Protected Contact Rule

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, filed a petition March 24 asking OSHA to enact a regulation prohibiting direct physical contact between employees and elephants in any type of business where elephants are in captivity — zoos, circuses, etc. Submitted by Delcianna Winders, PETA’s director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement, the petition asks OSHA to promulgate a regulation, issue enforcement guidance saying direct contact is prohibited under the General Duty Clause, and ask a Washington, D.C. federal court to immediately require a protective barrier for all contact with elephants.

The organization said it acted on the same day that the Knoxville (Tenn.) Zoo announced it will switch to “protected contact” after an elephant handler was killed in January. Winders’ petition — it fills 240 pages including appendices, exhibits, and other documents — contains extensive information about protected contact and lists many incidents in which elephant handlers in direct-contact situations have been injured or killed in the United States in recent years.

The petition notes that being an elephant handler is an extremely dangerous job, with a fatality rate above commercial fishing and far higher than the rate for typical workers, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report issued in 1997.

“In contrast to free contact, protected contact (or ‘PC’) relies on positive reinforcement and all interactions occur through a protective barrier, such as a fence or cage,” the petition states. “As defined by one of its creators, Protected contact is a system for managing elephants that uses positive reinforcement training as the primary method to modify behavior and gain the voluntary cooperation of the animal. Physical punishment is prohibited.

Directing the positioning and movement of the elephant and shaping behavior is achieved through the use of targets. Keeper safety is achieved by elephant and keeper positioning relative to each other and to a barrier, which typically separates human and animal spaces. Trainers function outside the elephant social hierarchy and do not attempt to establish a position of social dominance.”

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