Health and Safety at Work
Hazardous conditions, wildfires, air quality, heat, pesticide drift
Health & Safety Rights: Facts for California Workers
is the Cal/OSHA pamphlet that summarizes your workplace safety rights and what to do when they are violated. It explains your right to file a complaint, your right to refuse hazardous work, your right to documents and records about workplace hazards, and your employer’s requirement to have an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program.
How to File a Workplace Safety Complaint
Workers have the right to file a complaint about workplace safety and health hazards under the California Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973. Cal/OSHA is the state agency that investigates and enforces health and safety requirements in California workplaces. The name of any person who submits a complaint must be kept confidential by law, unless the person requests otherwise. You can make a complaint online or phone (866)-924-9757 and press or say “2” and then enter the zip code of your job site.
Worker Safety and Health in Wildfire Regions
If you are in an area where outdoor air quality has been deemed unhealthy or greater by the local government agency, the California Department of Industrial Relations and Cal/OSHA offer lots of information about protecting outdoor workers and indoor workplaces from smoke caused by wildfires. The page can also be viewed in Spanish.
Air Quality Index
- EPA’s AirNow calculator reports the Air Quality Index in your area after simply entering your zip code. AirNow is also available as an app for your mobile device.
- PurpleAir, although run by a private company, is another guide to air quality that may report even more localized data and microclimates.
Worker Safety in Extreme Heat
The California Department of Health provides information about extreme heat and preventing heat illness. It includes guidance for schools about Sports and Strenuous Outdoor Activities during Extreme Heat. The interim health guidance provides supplemental information; if a school or local jurisdiction has an existing heat emergency plan, consult with the existing plan first.
Cal/OSHA’s heat illness prevention standard applies to all outdoor worksites. To prevent heat illness, the law requires employers to provide outdoor workers fresh water, access to shade at 80 degrees and whenever requested by a worker, cool-down rest breaks in addition to regular breaks and maintain a written prevention plan with training on the signs of heat illness and what to do in case of an emergency. Learn more below:
- Heat Illness Prevention web page and 99calor.org informational website
- Cal/OSHA online tool for Heat Illness Prevention
Pesticide Drift Near Schools
The persistent efforts of AFT local unions in the Monterey Bay region to protect students and educators from pesticide drift at schools in close proximity to agricultural fields has resulted in improved protections from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.
- Pesticide applications are now prohibited within a quarter mile of schools and facilities between 6 am and 6 pm, Monday through Friday.
- Growers must give annual notice to county agricultural commissioners of the pesticides they intend to use, and notify public K-12 schools and licensed daycare facilities in advance of using them nearby. In addition, some pesticide applications near these school sites are prohibited at certain times.
The Watsonville Safe Ag Safe Schools Committee continues to fight for a California ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide known to damage babies’ brains. It also asks school boards to stop application of the carcinogen glyphosate – the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide – on school campuses.
- If you want to connect with local committees fighting the use of pesticides near schools, you can find them through Californians for Pesticide Reform.