Shade: Currently, OSHA requires that shade be provided as close as practicable, which generally requires the shade be within a two and a half minute walk (but no greater than a quarter of a mile or a five minute walk) from any employee. AB 2346 will require an employer to provide a shaded area at a distance no greater than 200 feet from any agricultural employee.
Drinking Water: OSHA currently requires employers to provide fresh, pure and suitable drinking water as close to the employee as practicable given the work restrictions. AB 2346 will require that water shall be provided at a distance no more than 10 feet from any agricultural employee.
Civil Penalties: This bill would also impose specified civil penalties, and create a private right of action, for violations of these requirements. Any enforcement action taken can be brought against all agricultural entities involved in the farming operation, including the farm operator. These penalties can range from $500.00 to $200,000.00, with half of the recovery going directly to the Department of Occupational Safety and Health.
Heat-Related: Death Any heat-related death of an agricultural employee, where the employer is found to not be in compliance with the required safeguards, will be a crime of voluntary manslaughter. If the employer is found guilty, the employer shall pay restitution to the immediate surviving family of the deceased employee between $1,000,000.00 and $1,500,000.00.
Posting Requirements: Currently, OSHA requires employers to put in writing all procedures on heat and illness prevention, and to have them available to provide to OSHA when asked. AB 2346 takes this a step further by requiring employers to post a sign with the following in a manner readily visible and legible at any worksite every day: the identity of the farm operator, the identity of the employer, the date, the number of employees of that employer in each crew at that worksite on that date, and the location at which the written procedures for complying with heat illness requirements are maintained. Civil penalties for violating the posting requirements shall be $500.00 per day, up to $10,000.00
Discipline / Discharge: In addition, this bill will prohibit employers from penalizing and/or discharging an employee who takes specified actions, including drinking water, taking a break, or other actions reasonably calculated to prevent heat illness.
Counsel to Management: AB 2346 is still in its procedural stages, and is currently working its way through the legislature. It is important to maintain compliance with the current OSHA standards, and to closely monitor this over-reaching bill so that you are prepared to adapt to the changes discussed above should AB 2346 pass. Stay tuned for more updates on AB 2346 as it navigates through the legislature. This bill is bad for employers, implicates joint employer relationships between Farm Labor Contractors and growers. Employers should contact their legislators regarding the impractical requirements of the bill.
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