Farmworkers Sue California Because of Heat Injuries
Farmworkers and their advocates sued California Thursday, claiming its heat safety rules are too weak to keep laborers from dying.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of the United Farm Workers and five plaintiffs, most of whom have suffered heat illness or have had relatives die.

The complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges the state and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health broke state law by failing to keep California's 650,000 farmworkers safe in high temperatures.

Cal-OSHA officials have been pushing for emergency revisions to existing heat-stress prevention rules, but a state standards board rejected those plans twice this summer.

Thursday, division spokesman Dean Fryer called the lawsuit misguided and said California's heat rules were the nation's strongest.

In 2005, California implemented the country's first heat-illness standard, requiring that farms and contractors give workers water and breaks. It also required shade and emergency plans to be in place.

Currently, 16 percent of all employers visited by inspectors violate the rules, as compared to 67 percent in 2006, Fryer said.