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California Study Finds Pesticide Safety Trainings Ineffective
(from November 19, 2002)

According to the San Luis Obispo Tribune, a new study shows that farmworkers have little understanding of the pesticide safety trainings they receive. Sandra Sarrouf, Environmental Heath Project Coordinator with the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo, stated that the study suggests that farmworkers do not understand the importance of the training sessions or the necessity in taking safety precautions.

The study, which is part of the San Luis Obispo County Farm Safety Initiative, a coalition of regulatory, environmental, farmworker, and agricultural organizations, found that 80 percent of the 138 San Luis Obispo County farmworkers interviewed either did not remember or understand the pesticide safety training they had received. Emphasizing the importance of the supervisors' pesticide safety training, 70 percent of the farmworkers reported that they counted on their supervisors for the safety information.

California law requires farmworkers that handle pesticides receive annual training on safety issues and other farmworkers receive trainings only once every five years. Brenda Ouwerkerk, with the San Luis Obispo County's pesticide enforcement department, told the Tribune, "There's a high level of compliance, but unfortunately the farmworkers' understanding is incomplete."

For the farmworkers that were poisoned by pesticides, the study found that 60 percent neglected to inform their supervisor or get medical help.

Another recent report, Fields of Poison 2002, released by United Farm Workers (UFW), Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) and California Legal Rural Assistance Foundation (CRLAF) in September, found that weak enforcement of pesticide-related worker health and safety laws remain a serious problem throughout the state of California. Fields of Poison 2002 shows that pesticide safety laws fail to protect many of the state's 700,000 farmworkers from poisonings even when the laws are apparently followed.

In at least 38% of confirmed poisoning cases, no pesticide safety violations were found. "California's pesticide safety laws are simply not strict enough to protect the state's farmworkers who get poisoned even when the laws are followed," said Margaret Reeves, Staff Scientist at PANNA. "We are clearly failing the people who work hard to put food on our tables."