The new season is nearing the mid-term… but we still have a lot of the “headaches” of getting started – fruit and vegetable maturity, weather, and an uncertain labor pool. Looks like we just can’t catch a break…….

The minimum wage changed for the State of Florida this past January 1st! Florida’s minimum wage went to $6.40 an hour on January 1, 2006, a 25 cent an hour increase to match inflation as required by an initiative passed last year. Please remember to check that your payroll programs are correctly calculating the new minimum wage and that you have changed your Worker Information – Terms and Conditions of Employment forms (WH-516) to show the new minimum wage of $6.40. Please also remember that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) poster with the $5.15 minimum wage STILL needs to be posted – and the rate not altered! This is a Federal rule – even though Florida’s minimum wage is higher than the Federal law the FLSA poster must still be displayed. This is also a good time to review your “broken-arm” posters to make sure your dates of coverage on the labels are still valid.

The U.S. Department of Labor and D.B.P.R. investigators have been very active….. and continue to focus on unregistered housing, transportation, registration, field sanitation, and field time keeping. CHAPP loss control staff members have encountered several instances of questionable tires on vehicles, poorly maintained toilets, and no field records of time being kept in the fields. Please remember that the investigators stated last season there will be no more “warnings” and that the cost of non-compliance has gone up drastically. Our staff has run into many occasions where the FLC did not have his license with him in the field – not a good way to start a visit with any investigator! Please make sure all your FLC’s have their state and federal cards on them at all times – and that they are current (not expired) and all the authorizations are correct. It is very important that you review your FLC licenses each time you get a new set – only you can make sure that your registrations are correct! (See 29 CFR 500)

This season we have found a lot of new crew leaders with less experience operating goat and field trucks! The youth and inexperience of some truck operators have led to some serious accidents in the citrus industry – at least two deaths of which we have direct knowledge. We must not let safety become a casualty because we are under pressure to get a job completed. The less field experience our goat and field truck operators have, the more training and supervision we must apply to maintain a safe work environment. It is very important that your field supervisors monitor the operations of your vehicles / field trucks and stop any unsafe practices before they become bad habits. Our loss control staff have materials to help with any safety concern for your operation – from training to company policies. Please don’t hesitate to call our loss control staff – we are here to help you maintain a safe work place for your employees.

The ag industry should follow new legislation during this session of the State Senate and House of Representatives. House Bill 255 (and the companion Senate Bill 258) are making their way through committees. This new law would require vehicles transporting migrant or seasonal ag workers less than 10,000 GVW have seatbelts installed, display stickers and signs proving compliance.
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We would appreciate any ideas for topics, comments on our information, and any questions you may have! Please call us at (800)242-7898 or e-mail us at wwurth@chappinc.com . Remember: wishing won’t keep you safe – only working safely will!