June 28, 2023
Finds Rafael Barajas failed to maintain heat illness plan as worker dies on first day of work
PARKLAND, FL – On Dec. 31, 2022, a 28-year-old worker arrived from Mexico with his work visa in hand, ready to start 2023 with a new job at a Parkland farm where vegetables awaited harvesting.
The next day, while many enjoyed the New Years' Day holiday, the newly arrived worker was placing wooden stakes in the ground to support bell pepper plants at C.W. Hendrix Farms. Struggling to keep pace with more experienced farmworkers, he complained of fatigue and leg pain as the area's heat index neared 90 degrees. Sometime later, co-workers found him unresponsive in a shallow drainage ditch. Like several co-workers, he experienced symptoms related to heat illness.
An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that Rafael Barajas, the Okeechobee farm labor contractor who hired the young farmworker, could have prevented his death by
following established safety practices regarding heat-related hazards.