Heat-Related Injuries and Workers’ Compensation in California Agriculture (CWCI)

Heat-Related Injuries and Workers’ Compensation in California Agriculture

Tuesday, June 18th, 2024 Legislation & Regulation Liability Risk Management Workers' Compensation

Senate Bill 1299, currently pending in the California Assembly, seeks to establish a rebuttable presumption of compensability for heat-related injuries, illnesses, or deaths among outdoor agricultural workers. If an agricultural worker is covered by Cal/OSHA’s outdoor heat illness prevention standard and it is determined by a Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) judge that the worker’s employer violated this standard, the injury would be presumed work-related unless the employer can prove otherwise.

From 2019 to 2023, only 659 workers’ compensation claims related to heat illness were filed by agricultural workers, representing a mere 0.65% of all claims in the sector. This rate is comparable to other industries under the Cal/OSHA high-heat procedures. The low incidence of heat-related claims suggests the efficacy of existing heat illness prevention measures enacted in 2005.

However, SB 1299 could impose significant administrative burdens by requiring WCAB judges to determine violations of Cal/OSHA standards, a task traditionally outside their expertise. The bill’s departure from the usual scope of presumptions, which have historically been reserved for law enforcement and firefighters, raises questions about its practicality and potential to improve safety outcomes for agricultural workers.

External References & Further Reading

Mid-America Catastrophe ServicesMid-America Catastrophe ServicesU.S. ForensicChurchill Claims Services

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