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California’s Division of Occupational Safety recently held a special hearing on a proposal that would institute new safety rules for night agricultural work.

Some agricultural operations occasionally conduct night work such as the grape harvesting and tree crops among others.

Working at night also can reduce the chance of heat-related illness among workers, however working at night can create its own unique hazards. And safety inspectors told the meeting that the majority of night work injuries are the result of poor lighting and visibility.

The proposal would:

  • Require that tractors, self-propelled equipment and trucks used between sunset and sunrise to have at least one headlight that casts light in front of the machines for at least 50 feet.
  • Require employers to provide additional lighting in the form of 10 foot-candles “for field adjustment or the operator’s attention” within 25 of equipment. (A foot-candle is a unit of light measurement, defined as the amount of illumination the inside surface of a one-foot-radius sphere would be receiving if there were a uniform point source of one light in the exact center of the sphere.) This lighting would be for the sake of safety for workers on the ground.
  • Require employers to provide high-visibility garments such as reflective vests.
  • Require 3 foot-candles of lighting in meeting areas, rest areas and other non-work areas.
  • Require 5 foot-candles of lighting along pathways leading to restrooms and drinking water and inside restrooms.
  • Require 10 foot-candles for workers near stationary agricultural equipment, harvesting and irrigation work
  • Require 20 foot-candles when workers are conducting maintenance work on equipment.
  •    Maintenance on equipment: 20 foot-candles

The proposal is not yet on the books and stakeholders have weighed with additional measures, such are requiring a written night safety plan, traffic plans for mobile equipment, safe areas, a system to account for workers, marking water hazards, pest and wildlife awareness, and personal lighting when needed.