Cal-OSHA lifts closure order on farm operator after worker's death

UPDATE: Cal-OSHA lifted the order Wednesday that temporarily closed Etchegaray Farms following the death of a worker.

A story about the Cal-OSHA investigation that was published Tuesday is below in its original form.


BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - McFarland-based Etchegaray Farms was ordered by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health to shut down all outdoor operations immediately.

On Friday, 37-year-old farmworker Juan Ochoa, an employee of Etchegaray Farms, collapsed and died while working alongside his brother Alejandro in triple-digit temperature.

The pair were working in a lemon orchard near Richgrove in Tulare County. Cal-OSHA spokesman Peter Melton said Tuesday the order stopping all outdoor operations work sites was due to imminent hazards posed to employees.

"The order was issued because the employer failed to provide access to shade, follow high-heat procedures or institute/train on emergency procedures," said Melton.

Eyewitness News called and visited the company office on Famoso Road for comment, but the company said it did not have a comment on either the death of Juan Ochoa or the shutdown order by Cal-OSHA.

"California employers are required to take steps to prevent heat illness," said Melton.

The agency said it found that Etchegaray Farms failed take numerous proper steps as outlined in safety regulations. Among them are safety training for all employees and supervisors about heat illness prevention, provide enough fresh water for employees to drink at least one quart per hour and encourage them to do so.

An employer is also required to provide shade and encourage employees to take a "cool down" in the shade for at least five minutes.

"These are the provisions that the employer did not meet regarding heat illness," said Melton.

The family of Juan Ochoa is glad Cal-OSHA is taking steps in the matter.

"Unfortunately, for my cousin it is a little bit too late," said Luis Ochoa.

According to Cal-OSHA, the shutdown order will remain in place until Etchegaray Farms can demonstrate that the imminent hazards have been removed or no longer exist. A rosary service for Juan Ochoa will be held Friday in Delano.

No cause of death has yet been determined by the Tulare County coroner's office.

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