As farmers look for ways to increase productivity and maximize worker performance, many companies have added night shifts to their operations. Although working at night enables companies to harvest and process more produce, night shifts can also have negative consequences: they expose more workers to injuries and accidents while also making it more difficult to work in limited lighting. With the increased potential for injuries, Cal/OSHA has initiated a review of current work standards that apply to night work and is considering creating new standards that apply specifically to it.
Night work is nothing new to California agriculture. Grape harvesters have been picking grapes at night for many years. Now other farming operations, including those that harvest pistachios, almonds, blueberries, corn, lettuce, onions, potatoes and tomatoes, are starting to pick at night as well. Picking during cooler evening and nighttime hours is also another reason why many companies are now running night shifts. In addition, some activities, such as irrigation, frost control, and pesticide applications have definite advantages to being done at night. In view of these increased nighttime operations, Cal-OSHA is considering some of the following standards for farmers and workers:
- creating a minimum 10-foot–candle brightness requirement
- requiring reflective clothing for workers
- developing a written safety plan in place for night work
- establishing a traffic plan for mobile equipment
- designating safe areas for starting, stopping and rest breaks
- establishing a system for accounting for workers
- lighting and marking of water hazards
There are other factors to consider, as well, including creating a “buddy system,” providing cell phones or radios for workers, and being more aware of active night pests such as scorpions, spiders and many types of animals.
Western Growers can assist you with any safety or training needs you might have with night operations. If interested in getting more information, contact Greg Nelson, Assistant Vice President of Commercial Lines.
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