A team of volunteers in black baseball caps demonstrated the differences between two breathing masks farmworkers are required to wear when spraying pesticides in a field of vineyards. A group of local farmworkers listened attentively.
Trainer Jag Signh Batth displayed a sophisticated air purifying respirator, next to a simple cotton mask with elastic strings.
“You can get away with this one, but which are you more comfortable with?” he asked.
“That one is more comfortable,” said Joe Larranaga, pointing to the simple mask.
“Not this way,” said Jag, gesturing to his face. “I mean inside, healthwise, safety-wise.”
Larranga nodded in understanding.
“Safety first,” he said.
This was one class of dozens participating in Farm Safety Day at the Lodi Grape Festival Grounds.
Every two years, farmworkers are required to complete a number of hours of training on how to properly use various pesticides. Employers can offer the training, but it can be time-consuming and expensive to set up individual sessions. Instead, growers send their employees once a year to Farm Safety Day, where they are trained in the use of four different pesticides.
Participants learned about pesticide application, personal protective equipment, first aid and the health effects of pesticide exposure. They also got a refresher course in how to deal with leaks and spills, and how to properly dispose of containers.
The class is approved by the Department of Pesticide Regulation. The Agribusiness Committee of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event.
It was a long day of learning for the workers. But it gave them a unique opportunity to compare notes on how their employers manage pesticides, and get the official answer on when a full protective suit is required.
Craig Ledbetter of Vino Farms says the trainers try to make the day as interactive as possible. Ninety-five percent of participants are Spanish speakers, so most of the groups are taught in Spanish.
The course is important because pesticides can be dangerous, but are necessary for growers.
“It’s about safety,” he said. “There’s no reason to put anyone in harm’s way for not knowing what they’re doing.”
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.