The opportunity for public comment on the proposed changes to nighttime labor regulations for the agricultural industry is nearing its end. The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) is accepting public comment until 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 18. The Cal/OSHA Standards Board will also be holding a public hearing in Sacramento that day at 10 a.m. for comments to be made in person. AgSafe President and CEO Amy Wolfe is encouraging individual farmers to voice their concerns about the proposed changes directly to Cal/OSHA.
“The Standards Board has long said they are impacted as much, if not more so, by hearing from individual employers who provide very specific circumstances,” Wolfe noted. “Hoping that Farm Bureau can continue in their effective pattern, quite frankly it’s just not enough anymore. We all leave this in the hands of our trade associations and the people making the decisions have told us point-blank ‘I need to hear from you, not just your trade association.’”
AgNet West originally reported on the proposed changes when the language was still in the review process. Since then, an Economic Impact Assessment/Analysis was performed which estimates that the cost to employers to comply with the proposed changes will be $36 per worker, plus an additional flat charge of $7,500. Wolfe voiced her skepticism in the economic figures compiled in the assessment, when the regulation will require an investment of “‘X’ amount of dollars in renting telescoping lights and ‘X’ amount of dollars for high-visibility clothing and ‘X’ amount of dollars for headlamps and that’s certainly going to cost more than $36 per worker. It’s that level of specificity that [the Standards Board] need to hear.”
Worker and labor advocacy groups have been outspoken in supporting the proposed changes, which stem from a complaint made by the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation in 2013 calling for a Cal/OSHA investigation into nighttime labor regulations. Wolfe urges those who will be negatively impacted by the proposed standards to be very specific in the economic challenges that would be created by the rule change. “Ultimately we have to speak up and we have to debunk the myth and quite frankly the horrible math that’s been used to substantiate the need for this regulation,” said Wolfe.
Listen to Wolfe’s interview below.