If you are one of the thousands who work in California's vineyards, you may feel a sense of pride when you see someone enjoying a glass of domestic wine. Truly the fruit of your labors, the wine represents your hard work and dedication to a fragile crop that is subject to many adversities. Vulnerable to weather and natural disasters, a vineyard requires attention to every element, from soil to pests.
However, as a vineyard laborer, you are also vulnerable. When a crop is ripe and ready, the focus of your employer may be on getting the grapes off the vine and ready for the winemaking process. This can mean overlooking some of the dangers on the job that place you at risk for illness and injury.
Common hazards on a vineyard
Every job comes with risks, but your risk may be higher if your employer uses your immigration status to take advantage of you. It is important to understand that even if you do not have documentation to be in the U.S. lawfully, you have the right to medical care and compensation if you are injured on the job. Some of the common injuries you may face working on a vineyard include the following:
- Back and neck strain from prolonged bending
- Carpal tunnel from overuse of pruners
- Plantar fasciitis from long hours on your feet
- Cuts, sometimes serious, from pruning tools
- Allergic reactions to insect and spider bites
- Illnesses, including skin diseases, from exposure to pesticides
- Illness and injury from exposure to extreme weather conditions, especially heat
If you become ill or injured on the job, your employer's first response should be to provide you with the opportunity to seek medical attention, either by calling for emergency help or, if the injury is not severe, allowing you to go to a doctor or walk-in clinic. Even if your injury does not seem bad at the time, if you fail to get a medical opinion, you may jeopardize your chances of obtaining compensation you need should the injury prove to be more serious than you originally thought.
Once you are under a doctor's care, it will be important to follow the medical advice you receive and complete all treatments. Keep good records of your medical appointments, treatments, therapies and medications in case you need to show proof of your injury. You also have the right to seek the help of an attorney who has experience assisting employees obtain the compensation they deserve after suffering a workplace injury.