Agriculture is big business here in California, and those who work in this industry face numerous risks, the least of which comes from pesticides. The United States uses billions of pounds of pesticides each year, and keeping workers safe can be a challenge.
If you work in the state's agriculture industry, you may spend a significant portion of your workday performing various duties in areas treated with these chemicals, including when harvesting crops. The Environmental Protection Agency did revise worker protection standards in 2015, but even if your employer follows them, it doesn't guarantee your safety.
Other than physical contact with pesticides as you harvest crops, if you are involved in their application, remain aware of the following dangers:
- Pesticides can become airborne and drift around your work area.
- You may discover that protective equipment is inadequate, missing or defective.
- The liquids could splash onto you during preparation or application.
- Any pesticide spills could create fumes or come into contact with your skin.
You should also know that you could expose your family members to pesticides if you don't take the appropriate precautions. If possible, you should shower, change clothes, and either clean your tools or leave them somewhere your family cannot get to them. Not only could they suffer exposure through physical contact, but the vapors could drift off you, and your family could inhale them.
Your employer should take certain precautions to limit or eliminate your exposure to pesticides, such as the following:
- Your employer should tell you when and where pesticide applications are taking or took place.
- You should receive pesticide safety training.
- Your employer should not let you enter areas where pesticide application is taking place until someone assesses whether it is safe to go back into those areas.
- Your employer should provide you with a decontamination area that includes soap, clean water and towels.
- Your employer should provide the proper protective equipment for your use during application and for entering areas not yet deemed safe afterward.
If something does go wrong, you employer should have a plan to expedite your receipt of medical intervention if you need it.
If you aren't sure how to tell whether you suffer from exposure, look for the following symptoms:
- You may feel dizzy or nauseous.
- Your eyes could become irritated.
- You could experience shortness of breath.
- Rashes and headaches are common as well.
After long-term exposure, you could suffer from numerous long-term effects such as the following:
- You could develop a neurological disorder.
- You could experience fertility issues.
- You could develop cancer.
- Your unborn child could suffer from birth defects.
It is crucial for you to address any of the aforementioned symptoms right away in order to limit the potential for these long-term consequences. Even if you are an undocumented worker, you do not have to suffer in silence. You may be able to receive workers' compensation benefits to cover your medical expenses, lost income and more.