Safety violations cited at Maldonado farm

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado’s family farm has racked up dozens of violations from the state’s workplace safety department since 1990, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The newspaper reported Thursday that Agro-Jal Farming Enterprises in Santa Maria also has accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax liens as well as multiple citations for exposing workers to toxic pesticides.

One of the violations investigated by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration was the 2007 death of 25-year-old farmhand Raul Garcia Osorno, who was crushed beneath a tractor at Maldonado’s family farm. State officials found that Agro-Jal had violated regulations by not having a spotter guide the driver and not having anyone with valid first-aid certification on hand.

The fine stemming from the death was $930.

Maldonado, a former state senator who represented San Luis Obispo County, told the newspaper that many of the violations against the company are because of overzealous regulators.

In other investigations of Agro-Jal, state officials cited the company four times each since 1999 for running tractors with no driver as well as failing to provide adequate access to shade or water for employees, according to records.

The largest fine levied against Agro-Jal was five years ago after two inspectors found tractors driving across the fields with no one behind the wheel. Cal/OSHA sought a penalty of nearly $23,000 but it was reduced to $3,150 on appeal.