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Lion Farms, LLC owned and operated a dried-on-the-vine raisin vineyard in Madera County (Cottonwood Ranch), at which Lion’s employee Isaac Rey Barrientos worked.

On June 10, 2015, Barrientos was killed when he lost control of the Lion-owned ATV he was riding in the vineyard to service Lion’s portable toilets, and the ATV’s right front tire hit an eye ring grape stake, ejecting Barrientos off of the vehicle.

The June 12, 2015, Merced County Sheriff’s Office Report of Autopsy and the Madera County Certificate of Vital Record listed “blunt impact thoracospinal injuries” (not a head injury) as Barrientos’s cause of death. He was not wearing a helmet at the time of his fatal accident.

While Barrientos’s death was not due to the absence of head protection, Division Associate Safety Engineer Randy Chase found that wearing helmets while riding ATV’s would reduce the inherent risk of head injury. However, Chase also found that Lion had no written certification of having conducted a workplace hazard assessment and no requirement that its employees wear helmets as PPE while riding ATV’s.

Lion was therefore cited for violations of workplace safety regulations by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

Lion challenged the citations and the penalties by filing an appeal with the Board. Lion engaged the services of a retained industrial safety expert, who opined in his prepared report that a helmet would represent a hazard in itself and should never be worn while riding an ATV in and under the raisin vine “canopy” of hanging fruit and canes, as a helmet would “most probably become tangled within the vines and pull the rider off the vehicle, causing severe injury or death.”

Following the hearings, the ALJ upheld the citations, and reconsideration was denied. Lion filed its petition for writ of administrative mandate with the trial court, which was denied after a hearing on the merits. The Court of Appeal affirmed the citations in the unpublished case of Lion Farms v. Cal Occupational Safety and Health etc.

Among other issues, Lion claimed that section 3380 (particularly with respect to PPE required in the context of ATV usage in agricultural settings), as applied on the facts and circumstances of this case violated Lion’s substantive due process protections because the regulations were unconstitutionally vague and ambiguous. The Court of Appeal rejected this argument.

An administrative regulation violates due process of law if it forbids or requires the doing of an act in terms so vague that persons of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its application. In considering a vagueness challenge to an administrative regulation, courts do not view the regulation in the abstract; rather they consider whether it is vague when applied to the complaining party’s conduct in light of the specific facts of the particular case. Standards under a regulation may be refined and developed on a case-by-case basis.

Section 3380(f)(1)(A)’s requirement that employers assess their workplaces to determine if hazards necessitating the use of PPE are present or likely to be present (and if such a determination is affirmatively made, select and make available the types of PPE that will protect affected employees from the hazards identified in the workplace assessment) is not impermissibly vague.