California is one of only two states to have regulations that require employers to take steps to reduce employee injuries or deaths due to heat stress. It’s also been issuing fines and even shutting down some companies that have violated the regs. But now a lawsuit says California isn’t doing enough.
The ACLU has filed, on behalf of the United Farm Workers Union, a lawsuit accusing the state of not being able to protect its 650,000 agricultural employees from heat injury and death.
The lawsuit also alleges that California hasn’t done enough to establish common-sense regulations that would provide water, shade and rest to farm workers who experience 100° conditions.
The ACLU and union also faults California for not having enough inspectors to enforce the heat stress regulations it has.
California was the first state to establish heat stress regulations in 2005. Washington is the only other state to do so.
However, the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board has failed twice so far this year to upgrade those standards.
Cal-OSHA wanted emergency amendments requiring employers to provide shade for at least 25% of their workers to rest in if temperatures exceed 85°.
When it met this summer, the board voted 3-3 on the proposed amendments. One member was absent. Governor Schwarzenegger supports the changes and criticized the board for not acting.
Cal-OSHA says it’s conducted 167 outdoor workplace inspections and identified over 200 violations between July 11 and 27. In all of 2009, it’s issued $415,398 in citations.
The lawsuit notes that California has 35,000 farms and only 187 inspectors, who also have to enforce safety and health regulations other than the ones about heat stress.
Should states have regulations regarding heat stress and outdoor workers? Or should OSHA just cite companies when they don’t provide enough water, shade and rest using the General Duty Clause? Let us know in the Comments Box below.