Protecting Nighttime Agricultural Workers from Hazards

Source: Alexandr Yuchynskyi/123RF

Sacramento—California has adopted new workplace safety standards to protect agricultural employees who work at night.

These are the first lighting standards in the nation written specifically to protect agricultural workers who harvest, operate vehicles, and do other jobs between sunset and sunrise. 

In a news release, Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker, said, “Agricultural workers face additional hazards at night when visibility is limited. These common-sense standards will enable workers to see hazards and also make them visible to operators of tractors and other equipment.” 

The new standards, which will be enforced by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), were approved June 3 by the Office of Administrative Law and will become effective July 1.

Agricultural employers will now evaluate each outdoor worksite:

  • To determine the required lighting levels;
  • Implement protective measures to improve the visibility of workers by operators of farm equipment and vehicles; and
  • Ensure workers have adequate lighting depending on the operation, area, or task they are assigned.

Supervisors must conduct safety meetings at the beginning of every shift to inform workers about their surroundings and high traffic areas.

The standards will be found in title 8, section 3441 (Operation of Agricultural Equipment) and section 3449 (Outdoor Agricultural Operations During Hours of Darkness).

The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board began the rulemaking in 2014 after receiving a request from Cal/OSHA and the public to amend Section 3441 to add requirements for outdoor worksite lighting and personal protective equipment after at least one agricultural worker was killed and others were seriously injured during nighttime operations.