Toward Safer Fields: Using AWPA’s Working Arrangement Provisions to Enforce Health and Safety Regulations Designed to Protect Farmworkers

Introduction

On a Saturday morning in the summer of 2002, Norma Torres was working in a Colorado lettuce field. As she worked, an airplane passed overhead, spraying pesticides on the adjacent field. The wind carried the chemical spray to where she and a group of other farmworkers were working. Ms. Torres’s throat began to hurt, her eyes stung, she could not get enough oxygen. She remembers feeling as if she was drowning. The foreman allowed the workers to leave the field for about thirty minutes, then forced Ms. Torres and the others to come back to work for the remainder of the day, telling them that nothing was wrong. Two days later, while Ms. Torres was still suffering from vomiting and other ill effects of the first exposure, the same thing happened. A plane sprayed pesticides on the adjacent field, and Ms. Torres and her co-workers were again forced to work the entire day in the lettuce field as the pesticide spray drifted over to coat the workers and field in which they worked. To this day Ms. Torres continues to suffer physically as a result of these exposures. She cannot breathe well and feels as if she is constantly struggling to get oxygen. She feels tired much of the time. Her employers in Colorado never provided pesticide training for the workers and failed to post warnings of impending or past pesticide applications.

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