PESTICIDE + WORK SAFETY
The Pesticide + Work Safety Project works to shed light on and reduce agricultural work hazards and pesticide exposures faced by California’s agricultural workers and other rural residents.
The Project maintains an ongoing dialog with Cal-OSHA (a governmental agency created in 1973 to ensure safety and health in California workplaces), and local, state and federal pesticide regulatory officials to encourage more thorough investigations and stricter enforcement of existing laws and regulations, improvements in regulations, and increased use of safer and more sustainable pest control alternatives. We also provide technical assistance to legal services programs and community organizations on developing outreach materials, accessing and understanding pesticide and work safety laws, regulations, public records and improving the response to pesticide poisoning and workplace safety incidents, and by expanding language access in reporting processes. The Project collaborates with various coalitions and other non-profit organizations to educate policy makers, agency officials and the public about heat stress, pesticide exposure and other work and environmental health and safety hazards.
CRLAF’s Recently Supported Pesticide + Work Safety Legislation
CRLAF was a key supporter of the following bills in 2022, which were all signed into law:
AB 1787: which extends the sunset on the Pesticide Applicator Medical Supervision Program’s reporting and registration provisions and enhances reporting requirements to better protect agricultural pesticide applicators.
AB 211: Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) budget trailer bill increasing maximum fines for pesticide safety violations.
SB 1044: which will prohibit retaliation against employees for refusing to work inside an evacuation zone (with exceptions for certain job types) and requires that employees have access to communication devices for emergency use.
The Project recently helped defeat a petition to revise Cal-OSHA regulations to allow autonomous tractor use. Agricultural industry representatives were interested in using autonomous tractors to move trailers on farm roads and in the fields, but because driverless vehicle technology does not have a proven record of reliability, this poses a substantial safety threat to those working on the ground. The Project also collaborated with partner California Rural Legal Assistance Inc. to help guide development of a Cal-OSHA date palm work platform safety standard.
At the beginning of the pandemic, CRLAF helped to get Cal-OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard adopted, and advocated for the extension of Cal-OSHA’s COVID-19 workplace regulations, preserving some key protections in indoor worksites and employer-provided housing. The Project also helped pass Cal-OSHA’s non-emergency COVID infection prevention standard.
In 2022, CRLAF provided comment on Cal-OSHA’s preliminary draft for a workplace violence prevention standard. The draft broadens the proposal’s scope beyond risk of physical injury and requires review of workplace violence plans after any incident. CRLAF is currently participating inCal-OSHA’s advisory committee to review and finalize the standard.
Lighting for Night-time Agricultural Work
CRLAF led advocacy efforts for a regulation specifying lighting requirements for night-time agricultural work. The regulation adopted in February 2020 specifies minimum lighting levels, for work and rest areas and pathways to restrooms and inside restrooms and requires the provision of high visibility safety garments to workers and safety meetings at the beginning of each shift orienting employees night-time work. Adequate lighting in night agricultural work is crucial for preventing injuries from collisions, slips, falls, cuts and bites as well as reducing eye strain and fatigue and workplace violence risks.
Protection from Wildfire Smoke
As California wildfires have increased in size and frequency, a growing number of farmworkers and other outdoor workers have been expected to remain working under very smoky conditions without any respiratory protection or safety training. To address this, CRLAF and other labor and community organizations petitioned successfully for an emergency wildfire smoke protection regulation, which went into effect in July 2019 and became a permanent regulation in 2021. CRLAF has advocated at county and state levels to prohibit or strictly limit access for work within wildfire evacuation zones.
Protection from Pesticides
The Pesticide and+Work Safety Project actively collaborates with the coalition Californians for Pesticide Reform to compel the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the County Agricultural Commissioners to improve pesticide regulation enforcement and language access at the county level.
CRLAF also works to tighten restrictions on use of soil fumigants and other hazardous pesticides and to promote development and use of safer, more sustainable pest management practices. We provided technical legal assistance to CRLA Inc. attorneys and private counsel in Vasquez vs. CDPR and are now advocating for regulations that are enforceable and protect farmworkers and other rural residents from exposure to the carcinogenic soil fumigant 1,3 dichloropropene above the No Significant Risk Level set by Cal-EPA’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.
"California farmworkers suffer more heat deaths and illnesses than any other workers in outdoor industries."
- Mauricio Pena, The Desert Sun
Heat Stress Protection for Outdoor Workers
CRLAF played a major role in advocating for more protective Cal-OSHA heat stress prevention regulations, which went into effect in 2015, requiring employers to provide workers enough shade during meal and rest periods to allow workers respite from sun and severe heat. Employers must also ensure that field managers are trained in how to identify and provide emergency medical assistance to farmworkers showing signs of heat illness. Heat exposure is an increasing danger to agricultural workers and other workers across the state.
In early 2023, Cal-OSHA proposed a draft Indoor Heat Illness Prevention Standard. CRLAF actively supports this expansion of specific heat protections for workers in produce and meat packing, warehouses, and other indoor worksites where heat is a hazard.