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Agricultural Worker Health Project

A Project of California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA) and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation (CRLAF)

Generous funding provided by The California Endowment
Water & Bathrooms in the Fields

Many of us take for granted that our workplaces will have drinking water, bathrooms, and soap, water and towels to wash our hands. That is, unless we work in the fields.

For decades, farm workers had no right to bathrooms. Workers relieved themselves in or near the fields because there was no other option. There was no privacy and the urine or feces remained where it was dropped. It was impossible for workers to wash their hands. And drinking water, to the extent there was any, had to be brought by the workers themselves.

State regulations now require agricultural employers to provide adequate toilets for their workers, and in many cases, this means that separate toilets must be provided for men and women. In most cases, toilets are now provided to workers. This is largely due to CRLA, CRLAF, and AWHP’s constant field monitoring and negotiations with employers to ensure that toilets are provided. But many problems still exist. Some employers ignore the regulations entirely. Others provide toilets, always port-a-potties, that are so dirty and poorly maintained that they are a health risk and disgusting to use. Even when toilets are provided to the workers, often employers fail to provide soap and water for handwashing and paper towels for hand drying.

State regulations also require that employers provide drinking water to workers and disposable cups. But it is not uncommon for workers to be without water, forcing them to drink from irrigation pipes which often carry toxic residues. Other workers are not provided with disposable cups, so they must either put their mouth below the spout of the water dispenser or use common cups or ladles.

AWHP advocates conduct constant field monitoring to ensure that farm workers are provided with toilets and water. When AWHP advocates fail to convince employers to provided the required services on the spot, AWHP advocates sometimes report the employer to CalOSHA. In those instances, AWHP advocates work with CalOSHA to make sure that the employer is fined and forced to provide toilets and water.


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