It doesn’t take long in a conversation with John Rodriquez to realize how focused and passionate he is about making the work environment safer for those employed in the agriculture industry. As a Loss Control Consultant for DiBuduo & DeFendis Insurance Brokers, one of the largest independent insurance agencies in California, John applies his workplace safety and health expertise to help reduce potential losses for his agriculture industry clients by assessing and mitigating the risks their employees face on the job.
John’s role as a specialist in agriculture loss control encompasses a broad range of responsibilities and activities, including assessing clients’ Cal OSHA Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP); providing safety training to agriculture workers, supervisors and those responsible for on-the-job safety; conducting mock OSHA inspections to help work crews prepare for the real thing; offering safety symposiums for potential clients; organizing safety “boot camps” for wineries; and producing Spanish language safety videos. John frequently provides training and mentoring to workers who are given the responsibility for safety but have not received adequate training.
John’s training programs cover topics and issues that are especially applicable to the agriculture industry and are conducted primarily in Spanish to accommodate a largely Hispanic workforce. The wide variety of training topics he offers include tractor, ATV and forklift safety; sexual harassment; first aid/CPR; lockout/tagout; hazard communication; the EPA’s Worker Protection Standard, which regulates protections for workers from pesticide poisoning and injury; heat-related safety; respirator testing and orientation; coronavirus response strategies; wildfire safety standards; and the risks of night work.
As a safety specialist, John has responded to many life and death situations during his career. He cites a dramatic example of a farm worker who was experiencing signs of heat stress, a common hazard in the agriculture industry. Other than handing him a bottle of water, those working with this young man weren’t sure how to respond. When he fainted, his fellow workers panicked. John was called to the scene, where he found the man on his back with an ice pack behind his head, which is a dangerously incorrect response to heat stress. John wet the young man down and carried him to his air-conditioned truck, where the cold air on his wet clothing gradually lowered his body temperature. John accompanied the young man to the hospital in an ambulance, where he was told that in another 15 minutes, without the appropriate treatment, the worker may not have survived.
John’s path to a safety career in the agriculture industry unfolded gradually over time. After spending several years as a welder, truck driver and mechanic, he applied his natural aptitude for numbers as a bookkeeper for a California based farm labor contractor. In a few years John had moved over to supervising work crews in the fields and saw firsthand the multiple risks faced by workers and the lack of safety awareness and hazard prevention. Through working directly with crews, reviewing claims and conducting accident investigations, John developed a keen interest in the unique safety issues and challenges in the agriculture industry. As John says, he became a safety person by default, eventually assuming the title of Safety Manager. Among other accomplishments, John’s safety guidance helped reduce the experience modification rate of his company from 125 to 68, resulting in lower insurance premiums for his employer.
John obtained his early education in occupational safety through his own initiative before the internet was available by reading and researching wherever he could find safety information. The development of the internet brought him many more online resources by allowing greater access to safety and health regulations, standards, compliance, training tools and much more. He later earned his Safety Trained Supervisor (STS) certification in General Industries with the Board of Certified Safety Professionals and more recently completed the Certified Safety & Health Official Certificate (CSHO) – Level III program in General Industry. He is currently three courses away from earning his CSHO in Construction and acknowledges DiBuduo & DeFendis for funding his safety education. He also credits the OSHA Training Institute Education Center at Chabot-Las Positas Community College District for increasing his access to OSHA classes by offering instruction via Zoom.
John continues to focus on additional occupational safety education through attending more OSHA classes, professional develop conferences and other safety events. As he says, he is highly motivated to add more tools to his toolbox and improve his skills as a safety trainer and consultant. An important goal for John is to develop Spanish language curriculum and teach General Industry outreach training classes to a wider audience of Spanish speaking workers.
John says he’s always been a “fixer” who is motivated to make things better, which makes him ideal for the safety profession, where many work environments are in serious need of fixes to prevent injuries and fatalities. He is passionate about his work and dedicated to making the agriculture industry safer for all those who toil each day to help bring food to our tables.