California already has the strictest regulations on the books to provide relief for outdoor workers in hot conditions. A bill passed by the state’s legislature would have created new penalties for breaking these rules, but the effort has been stopped by a veto.
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has vetoed Assembly Bill 2346 which would have required employers to provide workers access to water and shade or face jail and/or a fine.
Violating the law would have led to six months in jail and a fine up to $10,000 for employees responsible for providing outdoor workers with relief from the heat. If the worker was injured, the penalties could increase to one year in jail and a $25,000 fine.
Brown said enforcement of California’s heat stress standard could be improved, but he wasn’t convinced that creating a new crime was the answer to the problem.
The bill would have required employers to ensure continuous access to shade and cool water for each worker to drink one quarter per hour.
The measure was in response to the penalties given to two supervisors in the death from heat illness of a pregnant 17-year-old in 2008.
Maria Isavel Vasquez Jimenez’s body temperature was 108 degrees.
The owner of Merced Farm Labor pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of failing to provide shade. She was sentenced to 40 hours of community service, three years’ probation and a $370 fine.
The company’s safety director pleaded guilty to a felony count of failing to follow safety regulations that resulted in death. He was sentenced to 480 hours of community service, five years’ probation and a $1,000 fine.
Farm worker advocates said both managers should have been sentenced to prison time. They had been charged with involuntary manslaughter.
California’s heat stress regulation for outdoor workers remains in effect. It kicks in when the predicted high temperature for the day reaches 85 degrees or the actual temperature reaches 90 degrees.
Federal OSHA has said it won’t enact a heat stress standard for the entire nation, for now. Washington state also has a heat stress standard.
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