New system launched to alert Ventura County farmworkers to wear masks amid unhealthy air conditions

Unhealthy air quality posing a serious risk to farmworkers health
OXNARD, Calif. (KABC) -- Throughout the year, farmworkers are exposed to some of the most dangerous working conditions, from blistering heat to wildfire smoke polluting the air.

Farmworkers are to be provided N95 masks from employers under certain circumstances even though fires don't frequent the Oxnard area where the smoke travels.

"These new workplace safety rules are important, but they only exist on paper, unless we make sure they actually reach people out in the fields," says Lucas Zucker, CAUSE Policy and Communications Director.

"In so recognizing their work, we have to recognize that they are in danger," says Ventura County Supervisor and Air Pollution Control District Board member Carmen Ramirez. "Even though we don't have fires in the city of Oxnard, when the fires come as they've come in the past, the smoke comes here."

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Several Ventura County public agencies and groups are now launching a new system to alert farmworkers and supervisors about unhealthy air quality levels.

"There are going to be to trigger levels. At the first trigger level, the wearing of the mask will be voluntary, but once we reach the hazardous levels, we're in a 'mask will be mandatory' as required under the Cal OSHA regulations," says Ventura County Air Pollution Control District Director, Dr. Laki Tisopulos.

Highlighting the diversity within farmworker communities, the alert system messages will also be provided in indigenous languages ensuring that they have the information needed to protect themselves.

They are also focusing their outreach through platforms many farmworkers use such as Facebook and WhatsApp.



"We know that this system won't solve everything and that farmworkers and our agriculture industry still face major barriers and challenges to staying safe during wildfires. But we hope that this will be a major step forward and look forward to promoting this new resource within our farmworker community," said Zucker.

People can sign for the text alerts in English or in Spanish simply by texting the word "smoke" or the word "humo" to 855-522-0034.
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