With the first heatwave of the season coming to California, heat illness prevention becomes a critical aspect for farming operations to consider. Tulare County Farm Bureau Executive Director Tricia Stever Blattler explained that the high temperatures are no surprise to the industry, but this year there is an added layer of safety protocols that will need to be navigated.
“It’s even tougher to really focus on those workplace safety standards when you have the challenge of outdoor work and trying to provide shade and an adequate amount of cool, potable drinking water to every employee on an hourly interval when you also have to adhere to the COVID guidelines for safe distancing and wearing facial masks and all the other challenges that the pandemic has brought about,” Blattler noted.
Every employer should have their high heat procedure and emergency action plan in place, with supervisors and employees familiar with the protocol. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health also has materials available that specifically detail the heat illness prevention standard for employers. “What’s most important is that they have taken those guidelines and adapted them to their unique employee situation and have an up to date injury and illness prevention plan that specifically addresses high heat situations,” said Blattler.
There are plenty of resources available related to heat illness prevention, including what is expected and how to carry out those standards. Organizations such as the California Farm Bureau Federation, the Farm Employer Labor Service, and AgSafe all have literature and training materials available to keep farming operations informed about what is required.
“It’s a tough role to try and keep all those standards in place and recognize that working in a constantly changing environment where crews are moving around in different fields and trying to maintain their shade and water availability is just really critical right now,” Blattler explained.