The state of Oregon is finally taking action to address the legitimate concerns of workers working with pesticides in Oregon’s forests.
A third state agency within a week issues suspension and fines of $14,100 against Applebee Aviation in aerial herbicide spray case
10-15-2015 PRESS RELEASE (PDF)
On September 23, Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (OR-OSHA) cited Applebee Aviation for 12 serious violations of worker safety and protection laws and fined the company $8,850. Two days following, the state’s Department of Agriculture levied $1,100 in civil penalties against Applebee Aviation for illegal activities under state and federal pesticide law.
A third agency, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), counted forty-nine recent violations of transportation laws violated by the helicopter and trucking company. On September 3, 2015 ODOT issued civil fines of $14,100 and a 10-day license suspension in Applebee’s case, but didn’t release the information to the public until October 15th.
It has taken state government five months to temporarily ground Applebee Aviation after a worker reported a collection of illegal and hazardous practices he witnessed while working as a hazardous materials truck driver and chemical loader. Darryl Ivy, who is certified and licensed to drive trucks carrying hazardous materials, first reported the illegal work place conditions and violations of federal pesticide laws in April 2015.
Attorney General Gets Involved
On October 7th, Beyond Toxics filed an inquiry asking if Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) had made sure to stop upcoming spray contracts due to the license suspension of Applebee Aviation. ODF had yet to do so. Urged by our inquiry, several state agencies discovered that the company continued to spray on federal and state land. The state Attorney General, at the urging of the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), then requested and received a restraining order from a Washington County judge. (OPB News story, Oct. 13, 2015).
We see a repeated pattern of harm to health and well being of the people of Oregon due to pesticide exposure because of a broken regulatory system. Read Beyond Toxics’ suggested reforms to protect workers and the public.
A key story about the plight of forestry pesticide workers broke last May when Darryl Ivy, a truck driver and pesticide handler worker for Applebee Aviation was exposed to herbicides on the job. He released hundreds of photos and videos in alleging unsafe conditions during aerial herbicide sprays.
An important series by Oregonian journalist, Rob Davis, followed closely Darryl’s story and the underlying issues of worker safety and health in Oregon’s forests, including:
“Whistleblower videos reveal helicopter spraying workers with weed killers” By Rob Davis | The Oregonian/OregonLive – May 20, 2015
“Confronted with weed killer videos, state agency says it takes complaints seriously” By Rob Davis | The Oregonian/OregonLive – May 22, 2015
“$20,000 fine cut to $0 in high-profile helicopter herbicide spray case” By Rob Davis | The Oregonian/OregonLive – July 1, 2015
What’s wrong with the pesticide regulation system? This Oregon Public Broadcasting article sums it up nicely:
“How One Complaint Reveals The Flaws In Oregon’s Pesticide Regulation” (AUDIO)
- * Beyond Toxics 5-point plan for meaningful reform for worker protections:
1. Burden of Proof: Reporting a work-related injury or illness is always a protected activity. Workers must be allowed to seek medical care in a timely fashion without fear of being fired or threat of retribution. In cases of worker injury or illness on the job, there must be proof that no retaliation has or will take place. The State must establish policies that change the burden of proof from the employee to the employer. We need employer accountability to show that workers are treated fairly and no retaliation takes place when an employee reports a work-related injury or illness, including illnesses from exposure to pesticides.
2. Respect Injured Workers Seeking Compensation: Ensure that workers can file Workers Compensation Claims without employer retribution. Many workers are harassed and discouraged when reporting unsafe work practices that result in injury or when applying for Worker’s Compensation claims. Many are threatened with losing their job.
3. Audit Workers Compensation Companies: The State should perform an audit on Workers Compensation insurance companies. Insurance companies are putting workers through unreasonable and repetitive scrutiny before they are able to get help paying medical bills so they can get back to work.
4. Don’t Blame the Injured Victim: OR-OSHA should be the worker’s ally when injured on the job, including chemical exposure injuries. OR-OSHA must perform more unannounced on-site inspections to ensure that employers are preventing pesticide exposures for all workers, whether that worker is an applicator or a truck driver. By law, companies must provide protective equipment, eye wash stations, hand wash stations, access to clean and sanitary places to eat on their break, clean drinking water and proper training and licensing for pesticide use.
5. Peril of Life and Health?: No worker should be subjected to the risk of losing life and limb while on the job. No workplace use of a pesticide should endanger members of the public through drift or residue. Oregon must reform state pesticide laws to uphold a high standard of human health, including keeping pesticides out of drinking water and protecting schools, homes and organic farms from pesticide drift.
“If people are getting sick a mile away from the spray area, even when the company [Applebee Aviation] is compliant with the law, something is wrong with our laws.”
– Jim Sweeney, Cedar Valley victim of chemical trespass
More about our Forestry Pesticide Project
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