Worker safety, fruit health to be discussed at seminar

Growers concerned about protecting vineyard workers from heat illness and the fruit from rot and mildew can attend a seminar Tuesday morning organized by the Independent Grape Growers of the Paso Robles Area.

“There have been changes in the law requiring growers and labor contractors to have a heat illness prevention plan,” said Lowell Zelinski, the owner of Precision Ag Consulting who also heads the seminar committee for the grower group.

“The majority of growers are vaguely aware of the requirements,” he added, “but they don’t know what to do or who enforces them.”

The California Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health has been stepping up enforcement of its heat regulations for outdoor worksites, the department announced in a recent news release.

“We will be out there across the state, ensuring that all employers are complying with the heat standard,” Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess said in the release. “These basic requirements — adequate water, shade, rest breaks, training and emergency procedures — can mean the difference between life and death to protect the most vulnerable employees working outdoors.”

Those found in violation could pay thousands of dollars in fines for even a small crew, Zelinski said. He pointed out that average summer temperatures in the North County could put certain workers in danger, depending on the task and conditions.

Chris Browning of Ag Safety and Compliance in Templeton will update vineyard owners and managers and suggest strategies to assure compliance with state regulations.

Mike Yoshimura, a professor of plant pathology at Cal Poly, will then give growers tips on the best ways to prevent bunch rot and powdery mildew. His talk will include when and where to spray and when to stop spraying because plants are no longer at risk for fungal diseases.

The seminar runs from 9 a.m. to noon at the J. Lohr Winery Wine Center, 6169 Airport Road in Paso Robles. Members attend free and others pay $20.

America’s most popular white wine will be the focus of The Chardonnay Symposium on July 22 and 23 in Santa Maria Valley.

Tickets are available for a variety of events including vineyard tours, samples from barrels and finished wines, panel discussions, a barbecue and a grand tasting. For details, visit or call 866-480-5194.

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