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This post was updated at 2:45 p.m. with comments from Sunview Vineyards' representative.

Cal-OSHA is investigating another farmworker death in a Central Valley vineyard as possibly heat-related.

The death occurred last Wednesday, the same day as California legislators held a joint hearing at the state Capitol on whether current state efforts are sufficient to prevent more heat deaths among California farmworkers.

Rodolfo Ceballos Carrillo, 54, collapsed in the Arvin area of Kern County while laboring for Sunview Vineyards, according to Cal-OSHA spokeswoman Erika Monterrosa.

He was taken to Kern Medical Center by ambulance and died at about 4:30 p.m., according to the Kern County coroner. Autopsy results are pending.

California's vineyards are bringing in vast quantifies of grapes right now. In 2008 another worker doing the same job for Sunview Vineyards that Ceballos Carrillo was doing -- tossing heavy boxes of grapes onto trucks -- also collapsed and later died. The coroner later attributed the July 9, 2008, death of Abdon Felix, 42, to heat stress.

Dan Gallegos, human resources director for Sunview Vineyards, said, "It doesn't appear to us that he (Ceballos Carrillo) died from heat stroke." Gallegos called the worker a "a longtime and respected employee" and said: "We're deeply and sincerely saddened by his death."

Gallegos said the coroner's office told the company that Ceballos Carrillo had some health concerns, but the coroner's office would not discuss details of the case.

UFW National Vice President Armando Elenes said, in response to Ceballos Carrillo's deat: "It's another life of a farmworker that's been lost."

Elenes said that weather reports predicted a high of 97 degrees July 14 in the Bakersfield and Arvin area. Elenes said he heard from people who had been in the vineyard that temperatures reached 103 degrees.

Gallegos said his company's records put the temperature at 96 degrees. He also sadi that the degree of work in the vineyard that day was moderate.

Elenes said that the job of tossing boxes onto trucks is especially arduous because boxes are heavy, often more than 20 pounds, and workers load fast and often don't ask for breaks because they are paid by the piece and would lose money.

"You're picking up hundreds and hundreds of boxes, and throwing them up to the truck," Elenes said. "The employee has to choose. I either keep my production up or I could lose my job."

California's heat-safety regulations include water and shade requirements and instruct employers to allow workers take short breaks if they request them during hot days. Some safety specialists have argued that extra rest breaks during high temperatures should be mandatory because workers hesitate to ask for them.

Federal records show that Cal-OSHA officials visited Sunview Vineyards in May for a planned safety inspection. Seven other inspections have occurred since 2008, but no details for what inspectors found are available on the records.

Gallegos said that Sunview was not found in violation of regulations in connection with the 2008 heat-stress death of Abdon Felix.

The joint oversight hearing in Sacramento on Wednesday was before the Senate Food and Agriculture and Industrial Relations committees. The subject: "A Review of Regulations to Prevent Heat Illness and Deaths: Are Current Efforts Sufficient to Protect Outdoor Workers in the Fields?"

PHOTO CREDIT: Farmworkers harvest a new crop of grapes in Lodi. Sacramento Bee file photo, Sept. 5, 2006 / José Luis Villegas


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