Cal/OSHA stops outdoor worksite operations at Etchegaray Farms LLC

MCFARLAND, Calfi. - California workplace safety officials have shut down a Kern County farm operator after a farmworker employed by the company died of possible heat-related causes.

McFarland-based Etchegaray Farms LLC failed to provide workers access to shade, follow high heat procedures or institute emergency procedures and train workers in how to use them, according to the order issued by the state's Division of Occupational Safety and Health on Tuesdays.

A 37-year-old farmworker was checking irrigation equipment in the company's lemon orchard near the community of Richgrove, east of Delano in Tulare County, on Friday afternoon when he collapsed, officials said.

Temperatures reached 106 degrees that afternoon in Richgrove.

The worker was identified by the United Farmworkers of America as Juan Ochoa.

The victim's brother, Alejandro Ochoa, who worked alongside his brother on the day of his death, said the company did not provide shade or water to the workers -- and there was no cell reception to call for help when his brother slumped to the ground. Alejandro Ochoa said he ran three miles to get help -- but when the paramedics arrived, they confirmed Juan Ochoa was dead.

State officials said Etchegaray Farms must cease all outdoor work at all locations until it remedies the problems.

The company has declined to comment on the incident.

Cal-OSHA is also investigating the possible heat-related death last Tuesday of a 30-year-old farmworker who had been working at a watermelon field southwest of Fresno. That farmworker was working for Foothill Packing based in Salinas.

Officials say the temperature at the time of his death was 105 degrees.

State officials say coroners are still trying to determine the causes of death.

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(Title 8 Section 3395 (d), (e)1, (e)2, (f)(1)(G), (f)(1)(H), (f)(1)(I)).

Employer failed to meet these provisions of the heat illness prevention regulations:

·         Title 8 Section 3395 (d): Access to shade

·         Title 8 Section 3395 (e): High-heat procedures, including

o   (e)1: Ensure that effective communication by voice, observation or electronic means is maintained so that employees at the worksite can contact a supervisory when necessary.

o   (e)2: Observe employees for alertness and signs or symptoms of heat illness.

·         Title 8 Section 3395 (f) Training

o   (f)1: Employee training. Effective training in the following topics shall be provided to each supervisory and non-supervisory employee before the employee begins work that should be reasonably be anticipated to result in exposure to the risk of heat illness:

--(G) The employer’s procedures for responding to symptoms of possible heat illness, including how emergency medical services will be provided should they become necessary.

--(H) The employer’s procedures for contacting emergency medical services, and if necessary, for transporting employees to a point where they can be reached by an emergency medical service provider.

-- (I) The employer’s procedures for ensuring that, in the event of an emergency, clear and precise directions to the work site can and will be provided as needed to emergency responders. These procedures shall include designating a person to be available to ensure that emergency procedures are invoked when appropriate.

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