A report this week from the Stanislaus County (Calif.) Farm Bureau indicates that Cal/OSHA is out in full force conducting its Heat Illness Prevention sweeps. A press release from Cal/OSHA confirms that it will be stepping up enforcement this summer.

With temperatures reaching 100 degrees F in California, Cal/OSHA is sweeping the central valley of California to ensure that businesses, especially those in agriculture, have taken precautions to protect employees from the heat.

According to the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, at one farm this week officials were observing workers working outdoors and requesting copies of the employer’s Heat Illness Prevention Program as well as copies of training documents on heat-illness prevention. In addition to these requests, visiting officials may ask to review the employer's Injury and Illness Prevention Program.

Dairies in California are not immune to visits from Cal/OSHA. “Make sure to update your Illness and Injury Prevention Program to cover heat stress,” says Anthony Raimondo, agriculture labor law attorney with McCormick Barstow in Fresno, Calif. “All workers and supervisors must be trained on heat-illness prevention.”

Raimondo also advises, “Do not have workers drink from the hose as a source of water. At a minimum, have a water fountain in place.” One particular dairy that Raimondo works with has bottled water delivered for its employees. “The mileage you get out of providing bottled water is huge.” This particular dairy implemented two rules prior to having bottled water delivered: (1) don’t leave cups lying around and (2) don’t fill up coolers with water to take home with you. The dairy has never had a problem with trash, and it has worked very well.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) operates a dairy project out of its Stockton, Calif., office that targets dairies for lawsuits. "One of their oldest tricks is to flash a business card at a ranch supervisor or herdsman and say they are there to do an inspection. They will then gather information to turn over to OSHA for issuance of a citation, or will recruit employees to sue the dairy," he says. "Remember to verify the identity of anyone who walks on to the ranch. CRLA has no right to enter private property."

Also of concern is another report from the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau that it has received two calls from the same "Good Samaritan." This individual said that while on her way to work this week in 104-degree heat, she drove onto an eastern Modesto, Calif., dairy farm uncontested. She observed the calf-raising area and raised concerns of “over-heated and mistreated calves in the small wooden crates.”

The Stanislaus County Farm Bureau reminds farmers to:

  • Always treat your employees and animals how you would want to be treated.
  • All operations should be aware of who is on their facilities and who may be observing from off-site.
  • Third-party, non-farm and non-regulatory groups are observing employees and animals and have taken liberties to report any situations they deem unsafe or unhealthy to authorities. 
  • You have the right to refuse entry to anyone, including a state agency, unless they have a search warrant. Always ask for proper ID.
  • Be prepared and be up to date on all training and proper employee documentation, as well as any industry husbandry certifications.
  • Take the opportunity to educate a non-farm person with your husbandry practices.  This may help deflate potential hostile situations and it may teach the person(s) that what they perceive as a bad situation is not a bad situation for the animal or employee.
  • Keep other producers and industry organizations informed when you have an incident.

For more information on heat-illness prevention and training material, visit the Cal/OSHA web site at www.dir.ca.gov/heatillness or the Water Rest. Shade. campaign site at www.99calor.org/campaign/.

More information on Injury Illness Prevention Plans can be found in the June issue of Dairy Herd Management. Read: Knock, knock it’s OSHA