Safety and OSHA News

Orchard worker dies from bee swarm stings; Cal/OSHA fines employer $41K

Here’s an important reminder for outdoor workers and their employers: Insect stings can kill. Since that’s a recognized hazard, employers may face fines in cases such as this one: 

Cal/OSHA has fined Hadley Date Gardens Inc. of Thermal, CA, $41,310 for four violations following a bee swarm that stung and killed a tree worker.

On July 3, 2017, Geraldo Balbuena, 49, was spraying water on date palm fruit from the elevated bucket of a spraying rig when a beehive was disturbed. The bees repeatedly stung Balbuena, at least 30 times according to his daughter. He suffered anaphylactic shock and was pronounced dead at the site.

Balbuena had worked at Hadley for 27 years, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Cal/OSHA citations include two classified as serious accident-related for failure to:

  • evaluate the worksite for hazardous bee and insect exposure, and
  • establish appropriate safety protocols, which include providing appropriate personal protective equipment and training that could have prevented this incident.

Cal/OSHA says employers must protect tree workers from these types of hazards.

“Recognized workplace hazards for tree workers include bee and other harmful insect exposure,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. Sum emphasizes that employers must identify these hazards and provide appropriate protective gear for workers.

Cal/OSHA’s Tree Work Safety guidelines specifically cites bee stings as a potentially fatal hazard.

A federal OSHA document notes that bee stings that cause an employee to have an allergic reaction and require medical treatment are considered recordable injuries.

Multiple bee stings or an allergic reaction can be a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. If that’s the case, seek emergency medical treatment.

If you’re allergic to bee stings, your doctor is likely to prescribe an emergency epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, others). You’ll need to have it with you at all times. Epinephrine reduces your body’s allergic response to the bee stings.

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  1. I guess something happened to attack the bees! They don’t really attack without feeling threatened.

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