Thursday, July 14, 2011

Farmworker Safety Day

Over 70 Christmas tree growers, workers, and industry partners attended the Farmworker Safety Day held this week in Foscoe. The North Carolina Department of Labor and Watauga Cooperative Extension co-organized the event which was aimed at giving Latino farmworker workers and crew-leaders a refresher course on various aspects of Christmas tree farm safety. Groups of participants rotated through eight stations that were set up around the grounds of Hawk Mountain Nursery. Several representatives from other agencies were also on hand including the NC Farmworker Health Program, the NCDA Pesticide Section and the Foscoe Fire Department.

At the pesticide safety station, Charles Clark & Travis Snodgrass (NCDA) demonstrated proper use and storage of respirators and discussed pesticide labels. Mountain Conifer Hort Specialist, Jill Sidebottom went over some of the different chemicals and application methods used in the Christmas tree industry and what personal protective equipment should be used for each. Watauga County Extension Director, Jim Hamilton, translated.

Department of Labor Inspectors provided information to growers on housing regulations and hazardous communication protocols and also demonstrated proper chainsaw and heavy equipment safety. Brad Edwards, a technician with Cooperative Extension, gave a shearing safety demonstration and the Foscoe Fire Department instructed farmworkers on the proper use and maintenance of fire extinguishers and alarms. Wiley Gimlin, the bilingual owner of Omni Farms in Ashe County, gave a talk on tree baler and elevator safety. Southern Ag, Carolina Farm Credit, the NC Christmas Tree Association and Hawk Mountain Nursery sponsored the event and provided generous support for lunch for all participants.

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