HEAT ILLNESS PREVENTION – SHADE, ETC.:
Warm and even HOT weather is here, and Section 3395 of Cal OSHA regulations requires employers to have shade present when temperatures exceed 80 degrees in sufficient amount for all workers on recovery, rest or meal periods. But with social distancing of six feet between workers recommended, this becomes much more shade than before. Cal OSHA has established guidelines for employers to address COVID-19 prevention as part of their IIPP implementation. Their guidelines include this language:
Agricultural employers should use the following physical distancing measures to stop or slow down the spread of COVID-19:
· Physical distancing should be practiced, whether outdoors, in vehicles, or in structures.
· Stagger break and lunch times.
· Provide additional seating and shade structures to allow employees to take breaks while staying at least six feet apart.
The critical words here are should, not ‘shall’, or ‘must’. Shade for 100% of crews, and staggering breaks, and adding more shade is not always possible or even safe. However, employers should use and implement whatever practices possible, including additional pop-up shade structures where possible.
Also, please continue to implement all aspects of your Heat Illness Prevention Program as possible, especially documented worker training, provision of ample amounts of readily accessible drinking water, emergency response procedures, and your high heat procedures if you’ll continue working in temperatures of 95 degrees or higher. Plenty of info at the Cal OSHA Heat Illness Prevention page.
RESPIRATORY PROTECTION – N-95s – Re-Use Procedures?
An interesting piece from UC ANR – it includes, “Before the pandemic, 10% of N95 respirators from 3M went to health care, but that number is now 90%...” and “Carl Atwell, president of Gempler's, an online distributor of worker supplies…. estimated disposable respirators will become available in the fall and other PPE supplies in August.” With many agricultural operations now preparing for, or engaged in pesticide application season, these shortages are now hitting home.
There is information available that I believe also apply to and provides some relief to Ag employers – the CDC has guidelines for decontamination and re-use of filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs), such as N-95s. These guidelines include:
“One strategy to mitigate the contact transfer of pathogens from the FFR to the wearer during reuse is to issue five respirators to each healthcare worker who may care for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. The healthcare worker will wear one respirator each day and store it in a breathable paper bag at the end of each shift. The order of FFR use should be repeated with a minimum of five days between each FFR use.”
So, if you have a few N-95s for each worker, and paper bags for each, and document on them the days in between use, and name of the user, you can likely stretch your supplies for a while.
Also, please closely read the PPE requirements on each pesticide label. Very few pesticides require the use of any kind of respiratory protection, including N-95s. I see them commonly used where it makes no sense, such as with many herbicide applications. READ YOUR LABELS!
WORKERS COMPENSATION INSURANCE:
Over the prior weekend of April 17th, CFLCA was informed by our partners at Zenith Insurance, that Governor Newsom has been considering issuing an executive order to change the workers comp insurance rules to allow COVID-19 workers compensation claims for all essential workers. Such claims would not even need to have a positive test result to verify the worker is ill from C-19, nor that the illness was caused by the work environment. CFLCA members have joined many other ag and other industry associations in a campaign to reach out to the Governor’s office to voice our concerns about the drastic impacts such a change would create. We’re hopeful this campaign was effective, as of Thursday, April 23, no such executive order has been announced.