State shuts down farm operator in heat death case

Published online: Jul 14, 2013

FRESNO, Calif. (AP)-California workplace safety officials have shut down a Kern County farm operator after a farmworker employed by the company died of possible heat-related causes.

McFarland-based Etchegaray Farms LLC failed to provide workers access to shade, follow high heat procedures or institute emergency procedures and train workers in how to use them, according to the order issued by the state's Division of Occupational Safety and Health on Tuesdays.

A 37-year-old farmworker was checking irrigation equipment in the company's lemon orchard near the community of Richgrove, east of Delano in Tulare County, on Friday afternoon when he collapsed, officials said.

Temperatures reached 106 degrees that afternoon in Richgrove.

The worker was identified by the United Farmworkers of America as Juan Ochoa.

The victim's brother, Alejandro Ochoa, who worked alongside his brother on the day of his death, said the company did not provide shade or water to the workers -- and there was no cell reception to call for help when his brother slumped to the ground. Alejandro Ochoa said he ran three miles to get help -- but when the paramedics arrived, they confirmed Juan Ochoa was dead.

State officials said Etchegaray Farms must cease all outdoor work at all locations until it remedies the problems.

The company has declined to comment on the incident.

Cal-OSHA is also investigating the possible heat-related death last Tuesday of a 30-year-old farmworker who had been working at a watermelon field southwest of Fresno. That farmworker was working for Foothill Packing based in Salinas.

Officials say the temperature at the time of his death was 105 degrees.

State officials say coroners are still trying to determine the causes of death.

Source: capitalpress.com