Equipment and Machinery Safety, Personnel Safety, Regulatory Developments

California Adopts New Standard for Nighttime Farm Work

On June 24, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) announced the adoption of new workplace safety standards to protect agricultural employees who work at night. The new standards to protect agricultural workers who harvest, operate vehicles, and perform other work between sunset and sunrise are the first lighting standards in the nation.

Nighttime Farm Work

Oleksandr Yuchynskyi / Shutterstock.com

California has several workplace safety standards with no federal equivalent that include airborne transmissible disease, heat illness prevention, injury and illness prevention, and workplace violence prevention standards.

The lighting amendment to the operation of agricultural equipment and the addition of an outdoor agricultural operations during hours of darkness standard become effective July 1.

Beginning July 1, agricultural employers must evaluate each outdoor worksite to determine required lighting levels; implement protective measures to improve the visibility of workers by operators of farm equipment and vehicles; and ensure workers have adequate lighting depending on the operation, area, or tasks workers are assigned. Supervisors also must conduct safety meetings at the beginning of every shift to inform workers about their surroundings and high-traffic areas.

All tractors, self-propelled farm equipment, and trucks used between sunset and sunrise must be equipped with at least one headlight that can illuminate an area of at least 50 feet in front of the equipment or vehicle.

The outdoor agricultural operations during hours of darkness standard contains a table of required illumination levels for:

  • Inside restrooms and storage areas accessed by employees;
  • Intermittently exposed and exposed points of operation equipment;
  • Meal, meeting, and rest areas;
  • Operationally visible moving parts of machinery;
  • Pathways leading to and areas around restrooms and drinking water;
  • Poultry-harvesting or -catching procedures;
  • Task lighting for agricultural operations that involve the use of tools that can potentially cause cuts, lacerations, or punctures;
  • Task lighting for maintenance work on equipment; and
  • Otherwise unspecified outdoor agricultural operations.

Area lighting must be set up in a manner that minimizes glare to workers, using glare avoidance screens, proper adjustment of the beam angle, proper selection of lamps, and shielding.

Agricultural supervisors must conduct a safety meeting at the beginning of each shift to inform employees of the location of designated break areas, drinking water, high-traffic areas, nearby bodies of water, and restrooms.

Employers also must provide and require workers to wear Class 2 high-visibility garments that meet the specifications of American National Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel and Accessories (ANSI/ISEA) 107-2015.

The outdoor agricultural operations during hours of darkness standard also contains a nonmandatory appendix providing guidance on light selection.

After at least one agricultural worker was killed and others were seriously injured during nighttime operations, Cal/OSHA and the public requested that the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board amend the state’s regulation to add requirements for outdoor worksite lighting and personal protective equipment (PPE). The standards board began a rulemaking in 2014. The amendments were approved on June 3 by the state’s Office of Administrative Law.

Cal/OSHA’s consultation services branch will offer free and voluntary assistance to employers to improve their safety and health programs.