Local agricultural companies are facing limitations due to the current heat wave. In addition, agricultural enterprises and their workers are facing poor air quality that could restrict outdoor work during the almond and grape harvests.

In a recent joint press release, the California Department of Food and Agriculture and Cal/OSHA reminded employers they have to protect their workers from smoke in the air caused by western wildfires. If employers cannot provide respiratory protection or move operations indoors, then they might have to quit operations until outdoor air quality improves. Smoke carries dangerous particles that can cause breathing problems and make certain conditions worse, such as heart problems and asthma.

According to the Cal/OSHA press release, when local air quality reaches 151 or above, then employers must tell their outdoor workers about the protective measures that are available and how to use them. Employers can give farm workers N95 masks to protect them from the smoky air. California has provided N95 masks to affected counties so that growers can give them to their crews. The Grower-Shipper Association of Central California said in a press release that it is making sure its members know about California’s regulatory requirements on low quality air days.

Smoke inhalation can cause breathing problems and may worsen certain conditions. If an employer fails to provide protection and information regarding smoke inhalation, that employer may be found responsible for an employee’s breathing problems or complications from other health conditions.

If an employer is found responsible for causing or aggravating an employee’s health condition, the employee may be able to receive compensation for medical care, lost wages and other related costs. An attorney with a background in workers’ compensation claims may explain the legal process and explore an employee’s options.