Vineyard Harvest Safety
Understand vineyard harvest safety best practices and tips from our insurance experts at Morris & Garritano.
The Summer months are in full swing and with the warming temperatures, grape vines are under close eyes. As any experienced vineyard operator or grape farmer knows, the best date of harvest is rarely ever the same. Pick too early, and the tannins may be underdeveloped, but pick too late, and risk higher sugar levels resulting in an unbalanced product.
As this year’s harvest prepares to get underway, take this time to communicate some general safety and wellbeing practices to your staff and prevent avoidable accidents and violations. Whether harvesting your crops by hand or by machine, at dawn or at dusk, it’s important to do so safely and minimize your risk and liability.
Harvest season is the most crucial time to stress the importance of compliance, injury prevention, and safe productivity. Remember that agricultural/field work is highly targeted by Cal/OSHA for compliance. Continue to pay mind as well to current COVID-19 protocols as Cal/OSHA is certainly still watching.
As a reminder, the most highly cited violations in agriculture are:
- Missing or ineffective Injury & Illness Prevention Program (IIPP)
- Missing or ineffective Heat Illness Prevention Program (HIPP)
- Field sanitation (usable field restrooms, handwashing facilities, and drinking water)
- Operation of Ag Equipment & Machinery (Failure to train, inspect, maintain, lack of personal protective equipment, lockout/tagout protocols, etc.)
To help avoid common violations such as these and ensure your vineyard and employees are protected, keep these vineyard harvest safety best practices in mind:
Practice Proper Maintenance of Equipment
Read up and refresh yourself on manuals for older tools and machinery. Create an updated checklist for each piece of required equipment to avoid costly and preventable breakdowns when in use. Equipment that is not in proper working condition should not be used.
Be sure all machinery is inspected before each use. Correcting hazards may require repairs, retrofits, or even new equipment but making adjustments early can save you in the long run.
Practice Proper Maintenance of the Vineyard
Ensure any fire lanes, roads, or pathways on your property are clear from debris or obstruction. Check for seasonal damage that may have been caused by drought, heavy rains or floods, high winds, earthquakes, or fires.
Know the risks of your area and be sure you and your staff are aware of any potential hazards on or around the property.
For more information, you can view Cal/OSHA’s digital resource that goes further into necessary safety measures for common hazards associated with agriculture.
Develop an Emergency Plan
Vineyard staff should all be aware of your company’s protocol in case of an emergency. Ensure plans and policies are clearly communicated and understood by all your workers so that everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency.
While working, keep schedules open and well communicated. If a member isn’t back by a certain time, be sure you know their route and which field they’re in so that you can get to anyone quickly if needed.
Your winery’s emergency protocol plan should be communicated effectively for optimal harvest safety. Running drills can ensure staff’s understanding and ability to cooperate. Making sure everyone knows how to respond can save a life in the most dire of situations.
Train or Refresh Staff on Safe Operation of all Equipment
Staff (whether operating the equipment or not) should be aware of how each machine works and the line of sight the operator has. Everyone should be aware of emergency shutoffs or breaks in event of an emergency. For industrial tractors, refer to Cal OSHA’s employee operating instructions.
Crush season can be an especially dangerous time for vineyard workers. On the crush pad, be sure valves and empty tanks are checked for leaks before filling them and review training for employees operating or working near the equipment.
Knowing how everything at the vineyard operates and creating awareness of potential hazards creates a ready and aware workforce able to respond in urgent moments.
Enforce Proper Clothing and Gear When Working
Proper safety attire should be noted and enforced at all times while working. Equipment operators should be dressed for safety in appropriate attire allowing for proper movement and dexterity. Proper safety gear should be worn where noise, debris, or toxic materials may pose hazards to workers.
The wearing of close-toed shoes, properly fitting clothing, and safety eyewear or headwear must be enforced to prevent interference or injury while on the job.
Ensure Compliance with Current Requirements
Make note of up-to-date lighting and marking requirements. These standards may change over time or in regard to new situations and should be reviewed regularly. Understand and communicate codes and standard practices to your staff.
Ensure any work done at night or before sunset should be well lit. Work completed between one hour before dusk and one hour after dawn is considered “night” work. Fields should be well lit and equipment or moving machinery should be properly marked.
Additionally, be mindful of California’s smoke and wildfire regulations in specific regard to outdoor/agricultural workers who could be potentially exposed to ash or other contaminants in the air.
Guard and shield dangerous or exposed parts of machinery and equipment to prevent accidental injury or death.
Don’t Work While Fatigued
Fatigue, drowsiness, or illness can contribute to accidents or mishaps in the field. Trade energy or caffeinated drinks for good sleep and allow your body the rest it needs for the best results on the job.
Your staff should get adequate sleep between shifts and avoid the use of alcohol or stimulants that could impair judgment or reaction times when working. Encourage the use of time off or makeshift trading available for employees who need it to ensure all your workers who are in the field or operating machinery are of able body and sound mind.
Implementing proactive safety measures and identifying potential hazards early on can increase efficiency and safety while avoiding workplace dangers and potential injury.
Conducting regular site inspections of field and equipment safety, enforcing standard codes and policies, and maintaining compliance can reduce the risk of emergencies or preventable accidents. By communicating all this to your staff, you can plan a safe and efficient harvest this season at your vineyard. For a comprehensive guide, please refer to Cal OSHA’s Safety and Health in Agricultural Field Operations.
Vineyard Harvest Safety
Our Risk Advisors at Morris & Garritano are well versed and experienced in the wine industry and want to remind clients to keep vigilant during this harvest season. For more information on this topic, please reach out to your Risk Advisor with any questions you may have.