Story By: Tim Lavigne
SOMERTON, Ariz. (13 On Your Side) – A local crop dusting company, a pilot, a spotter and a packing plant are in hot water because of a December 2012 incident where 40 crop dusters were sprayed with pesticides.
The Department of Agriculture has confirmed that it has issued heavy sanctions on the companies.
The Foothills Packing Company has been slapped with a $1,900 fine.
The final report from the Ag Department says that the supervisor of the packing company initially refused to call for emergency help when workers complained of breathing problems and nausea.
The report says that one worker actually passed out before the supervisor made the call to Rural Metro Fire Department.
The Department of Agriculture says that the fine is very close to the maximum fine it can hand down for the safety codes that were violated.
The Department of Agriculture also issued letters of warning to Pilot Jeff Cottonbrook, Crop dusting company Morris Ag Air Southwest, and Pest Control Advisor Jeff Daily.
The letters of warning were given because of wrong information on pesticide application reports provided by Daily to Cottonbrook. This caused Cottonbrook to dust the wrong field, dousing the workers with pesticide.
Overall, 10 workers were admitted to Yuma Regional Medical Center. Many other workers refused treatment. Paramedics from Rural Metro Fire Department told the workers that refused treatment to immediately wash their clothing to remove the pesticides.
Since the Department released its final report, Janine Duron, Executive Director of the Independent Agricultural Workers Center, says that the door is open for the workers to potentially file claims against the companies involved.
"Any worker would have the right to file a lawsuit if they feel like they've been unfairly treated or illegally treated on the job.
There are resources in this country to protect any worker and every worker, and they are certainly within their rights to do that" says Duron.
There have been no reports of any claims filed against the companies by the workers to date.