Business

Tuesday, Jul 09 2013 04:09 PM

Worker death leads to shutdown

BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

Cal-OSHA ordered the shutdown Tuesday of all outdoor operations of Etchegaray Farms LLC, owner of the Richgrove field where a Central Valley farmworker died while checking irrigation equipment Friday.

"The order was issued because the employer failed to provide access to shade, follow high heat procedures or institute/train on emergency procedures," the state safety agency said in an email.

It added that the order will remain in place until the company can demonstrate that "the imminent hazards have been removed and no longer exist."

Etchegaray declined to comment.

The shutdown came one day after the United Farm Workers union called for stricter enforcement of heat illness prevention rules, saying the farmworker's death could have been prevented.

The union identified the 37-year-old farmworker as Juan Ochoa, who it said may have been a resident of Delano. Cal-OSHA declined to confirm the man's name but said he was living in Earlimart.

According to Cal-OSHA, emergency medical workers found the man unresponsive when at 3 p.m. they arrived at the field four miles east of Highway 65.

Cal-OSHA said it first issued heat-related shutdown orders in 2008, when it halted work by two farm labor contractors and an irrigation company.

Since then, the agency said, it has issued 31 heat-related shutdowns, or "order prohibiting use" orders. All but six of those were filed against farm labor contractors and other agriculture companies.

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