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Thermal date company cited by Cal/OSHA for worker’s bee sting death

Cal/OSHA today announced the issuance of more than $40,000 in citations to a Thermal date company for alleged health and safety violations in connection with the death of a tree worker who was stung by a swarm of bees last summer.

Hadley Date Gardens Inc. was issued four citations totaling $41,310 in connection with the July 3 death of Gerardo Balbuena, 49, of Thermal.

Read: Field worker killed by bees in Thermal ‘devoted his entire life to his family’

Balbuena was spraying water on date palm fruit when a beehive was disturbed, causing him to be stung repeatedly. He went into anaphylactic shock and died at the scene, a date palm orchard off Avenue 73.

A Cal/OSHA statement alleges that Hadley Date Gardens Inc. “failed to evaluate the worksite for hazardous bee and insect exposure, and failed to establish appropriate safety protocols, which include providing appropriate personal protective equipment and training that could have prevented this incident.”

Bee stings are listed as a potentially fatal hazard under Cal/OSHA’s Tree Work Safety guidelines.

“Recognized workplace hazards for tree workers include bee and other harmful insect exposure,” Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum said. “Employers must identify and evaluate workplace hazards, and provide appropriate personal protective equipment and effective training to their workers.”

Balbuena’s daughter, Marilou Balbuena, told CBS Local 2 / KESQ her brother has been in contact with the investigators but wasn’t sure where the investigation was at. She said while the fine won’t bring her dad back, hopefully, it prevents any further accidents in the future.

Marilou’s full statement:

To be honest with you I haven’t really been keeping up with anything. I don’t live at home so I know my brother is the one that’s been handling everything. It is my understanding that he’s been in contact with the people that have been investigating, but I’m not too sure where that is at. It has definitely been a tough couple of months, especially having to go through the holidays without him, but we’re doing our best to live life the way he would have wanted us to. As far as the fines go, honestly, it means nothing to us. Fines or no fines, it won’t bring my dad back. I just hope this helps to prevent any further accidents in the future. – Marilou Balbuena, Gerardo’s daughter.

KESQ News Team

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