Small family farmers must follow the same regulations from California DIR (Department of Industrial Relations) regarding OSHA and Labor codes as medium and large sized farms. The owner of the farm on record is exempt, but everyone else is considered an employee, whether they are the spouse, children, or other relative (paid or unpaid), says Richard Molinar of University of California Cooperative Extension.
The farmer must have a workers’ compensation policy for the farm to cover the workers. The cost for this policy starts at around $450. The grower must also have an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) and Heat Illness Prevention Procedures (both written documents) as well as training records of the employees, says Molinar.
During these summer months, inspectors from DIR randomly check farms throughout the state for these items, as well as worker sanitation facilities and other regulations to ensure the safety of employees. Case in point, says Molinar, a refugee strawberry farmer who speaks very little English was cited $2,000 by Labor Standards Enforcement for not having workers’ compensation insurance for his wife and uncle (his only two helpers) who work on their half acre strawberry patch next to their home in Visalia and only sell the berries from their roadside stand. He was also fined $195 for not having a documented IIPP and $260 for no documented heat illness prevention program for his wife and uncle.
The farmer, his wife and uncle, were the victims of a DIR EEEC (Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition) “sweep” composed of OSHA and Labor inspectors in June 2010. The take-home message here is that the law applies to everyone – regardless of size or who is helping you on the farm, Molinar concludes.
Growers can find out more about various regulations required on the farm by contacting Molinar or Michael Yang in the Fresno UC Cooperative Extension Office at 559-456-7285.