Lancaster Rite Aid workers take heat charge to Capitol

first_imgJody Cook, a spokeswoman for Rite Aid Corp., said a report from the Coroner’s Office and the company’s own investigation determined that the employee’s death was not heat-related, nor caused by the company’s actions, but she declined to elaborate on the cause of death. “Neither heat nor Rite Aid caused this death,” Cook said. “We do what we can to provide a comfortable work environment for all of our associates.” Orlando acknowledged that the employee had “underlying health conditions” but said he thinks the heat exacerbated those problems. Assembly Bill1045, by Assemblywoman Laura Richardson, D-Long Beach, asks the state Occupational Safety and Health Board to draft regulations on indoor heat in the workplace. It would include new requirements for the provision of water and break periods, and training to recognize and treat heat illness. The Assembly Labor and Employment Committee voted 5-1 to approve the bill, but it is expected to go through further hearings before being submitted for a final vote by the Legislature. SACRAMENTO – Workers at a Rite Aid warehouse in Lancaster complained to state lawmakers Wednesday that the company has failed to provide air conditioning inside the desert facility, allowing temperatures to exceed 100 degrees and causing heat exhaustion and one employee fatality. The workers testified at a hearing on a bill that would create California’s first regulations to prevent indoor heat illness in the workplace. They said the company has ignored complaints of heat-related illness and disciplined workers who fall behind on their quotas. During last summer’s heat wave, they said, one worker collapsed while working and later died. “Many of us suffered from the heat,” said Mark Orlando, who worked at the center from December2004 to January. “We got headaches, dizzy spells and nausea, and also threw up. We couldn’t slow down or go home because we were afraid of getting disciplined.” Last year, the state Department of Occupational Safety and Health received 37 reports of serious heat-related accidents, including 14 fatalities, although a breakdown of indoor and outdoor incidents was not available. After last year’s summer heat wave and related worker illnesses and deaths, the state wrote new regulations to provide relief to outdoor workers, such as requiring employers to provide water and access to shade. But the regulations did not address employees who work indoors. Employer groups such as the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Manufacturers & Technology Association oppose the bill, saying they are working with Cal-OSHA to look at heat-related issues. [email protected] (916) 446-6723160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img